Both executives will report together to Participant CEO David Linde, who made the announcement Thursday.
McLaren joins Participant having most recently served as a production executive for Fox Searchlight Pictures. Kessel, who has been with Participant since 2013, is being promoted from his current post of senior VP.
“I couldn’t be more excited to have Anikah and Robert running our narrative department during this exciting time for Participant,” Linde said. “Robert has proven himself time and again to be an invaluable part of the company, and Anikah brings with her experience and passion we’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Together, they are the perfect team to lead this dynamic team in creating entertaining, socially impactful content for audiences to enjoy around the world.”
McLaren oversaw last year’s “The Old Man and the Gun” and has been developing a feature film about choreographer Alvin Ailey, to be directed by Barry Jenkins. Prior to Fox Searchlight, McLaren was a production executive at Universal Pictures, where she worked on “The Bourne Legacy,” “The Best Man Holiday” and “Lone Survivor.” McLaren also held positions at Focus Features and Miramax Films.
Kessel worked on developing “Wonder” and Academy Award Best Picture winner “Green Book.” He also oversaw production on Best Picture winner “Spotlight,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Beasts of No Nation,” and “A Most Violent Year.” Currently, he is serving as executive producer on the upcoming Todd Haynes film, “Dark Waters,” starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway. Prior to Participant, Kessel held executive posts at Matt Tolmach Productions, Overture Films, Hart Sharp Entertainment and Miramax Films.