News Column

Kennewick native joins TV series

July 13, 2014

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

July 13--Ricky Russert wanted to be a baseball player long before acting became his livelihood nine years ago.

The 2001 Kennewick High grad recently joined the cast in the Cinemax TV series Banshee as a teenage gang member.

"I played baseball in high school and college," the 31-year-old said in a recent phone interview with the Herald.

But an injury during his junior year at Washington State University sidelined any hopes for a professional baseball career, so he added a minor in theater production to his business major.

And when he graduated in 2005, he headed to Los Angeles.

"I was ready to try something new anyway," he said. "So I gave theater a try at college and found out I got that same feeling of excitement when acting as I did playing baseball."

The move to Hollywood was up and down for a few years, which is normal in the entertainment industry, he said. But the past few years he's made a living at it and doesn't have to work another job to help pay the bills.

His Banshee character is Tommy Littlestone, a gangbanger with the Native American Redbone gang.

"He's not a good guy for sure," Russert said. "The show is very well put together, in a Tarantino kind of way."

Some of his credits include Touch, a TV series starring Keifer Sutherland; All's Fair, a film about a soldier who must decide between following orders or taking a stand against torture; and The World of Black and Blue, a fantasy noir film about parallel worlds.

His childhood chum, Cory Stemp of Kennewick, never figured Russert would go Hollywood on him.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine Ricky in Hollywood," Stemp told the Herald. "He was a typical jock like the rest of us, dreaming of getting drafted and playing major league baseball someday."

Stemp added that he and other friends of Russert's try not to miss any of his acting gigs.

"We watch everything we can, even when Ricky tells us not to," Stemp said. "We loved him in Touch, (especially) watching him act out a scene with Keifer Sutherland."

Stemp said that his friend's showmanship was apparent long before Russert left high school.

"Even on the baseball field, Ricky always had to put his own flair on every play," Stemp said with a laugh. "Always had to look flashy making even routine plays on the field."

Russert doesn't deny it, either. He has no inhibitions when it comes to performing on a stage, in front of a camera or on a baseball diamond, he said.

"It's joyful for me to entertain people," he said.

But he has no illusions about becoming a megastar like Brad Pitt because he loves working behind the camera as much as in front of the camera.

"I was fortunate to be able to work on a project with Dick Clark before he died," Russert said. The project was a documentary series called 21 that took a look at the art of card counting in casinos. Unfortunately, the series was shelved after Clark's death in 2012, he said.

"That experience was invaluable to me," he said. "Dick Clark was a phenomenal man and I learned so much working with him."

Russert also runs his own production company called Triple R Productions. But don't ask him to choose whether he prefers being in front or behind the camera.

"There is no right answer for that," he said. "They are two different beasts that I love equally for different reasons."

Right now, Banshee is what keeps him busy and he recently moved from L.A. to Atlanta because that Southern city is the hot spot for film industry.

It also means he doesn't get home to Tri-Cities very often to visit with family and friends. His parents are Rick and Lydia Russert of Kennewick.

"My parents have been together since their freshman year in high school," he said. "It's pretty amazing."

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;; Twitter: @dorioneal


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Source: Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, WA)

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