Kennewick High grad producing, starring in new film

A Kennewick High School graduate is finding success in Hollywood, earning roles on TV and the big screen.

Ricky Russert, 31, who graduated with the Lions’ Class of 2001, also has his own production company, and he’s finishing up work on a short film that’s destined for the festival circuit — and also a feature-length incarnation.

The film, called SLLiP — or “pills” spelled backward — follows Cam, a young husband and father who becomes addicted to painkillers after a workplace injury.

“He tries to hide the addiction from his family. He thinks he’s protecting them, but he’s driving them further away. It eventually tears his family apart,” Russert said.

Russert takes on the role of Cam. He also penned the film and is producing it. The 25-minute film is in post-production, with a Kickstarter campaign trying to raise $15,000 to finish that phase.

The campaign has less than two weeks left. Russert noted there are incentives for contributors from props, posters and scripts to the role of an extra in the feature-length version.

The goal is to make the festival rounds with the short film, starting at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and then produce the longer version. Russert intends to film the feature length SLLiP in the Tri-Cities.

“Being from the Tri-Cities, I wrote a lot of scenes based on the atmosphere (there),” Russert said in a phone interview.

Rob Lewis is the director, and the film also features Rosalie McIntire as Cam’s wife, Jessica, and Serendipity Lilliana as their young daughter, Keira.

Josh Kalender takes on the role of Cam’s friend Travis.

An artist with Tri-City ties, Noah Hunt, is providing the music.

Russert said the hope is to be in pre-production on the feature length version by the end of next year.

Russert splits his time between Los Angeles and Atlanta, but he has strong family ties to the Tri-Cities. His parents, Rick and Lydia Russert, live in Kennewick, and his siblings Isaac and Candie also are local.

Russert recently completed a multiseason arc on the Cinemax hit Banshee. And he appears in the film Ride Along 2 with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. It’s set for release next year.

“That was a lot of fun,” Russert said, though he added it can be difficult to stay in character with comedian Hart around.

Russert didn’t catch the acting bug in the Tri-Cities — he focused on sports, especially baseball.

But in college, he “decided to jump on stage and give it a try,” he said. “I fell in love with it. I had that same feeling I had as a kid on the baseball field.”

Russert said he aims for SLLiP to be riveting and entertaining, and also serve to raise awareness about painkiller addiction.

“We’re looking at everyday people and seeing how this problem is affecting them, hoping that it will resonate with somebody and really bring to light what’s going on,” he said.

For more information on the film, go to www.sllipthefilm.com. The site has a link to the Kickstarter campaign page.