STARRING: ART VAN HARVEY, BERNARDINE FLYNN AND DAVID WHITEHOUSE
According to author John T. Hetherington, in an interview with Jimbo, published May 28, 2014, he states: The script merely explains that Russell is Mr. Bueller’s nephew and that his parents were Chicago people. According to Vic, Bueller has taken “temporary charge of him until he can form definite plans.” And then he brought Russell there “because this is a medium size city with green grass and fresh air.”
Russell seemed unafraid of any task, even "adult" tasks. He was certainly more outspoken than Rush. Russell took on more of a Sade persona and Rush more of a Vic role.
Vic, Sade and Fletcher seemed to have treated both boys equally. However, look at the boy characters and realize they both grew up in different environments. Rush may have grown up "unloved" or something close to it (we don't know all the particulars) while Russell probably grew up in a thriving relationship with his parents and then they suddenly died. Either way, both boys would need lots of love. Vic, Sade and Fletcher seemed to provide that for each.
The boy characters each play their parts well. As I have stated in the past, I do think Bill Idelson was the better, more experienced actor and David Whitehouse was what I would consider, "raw." But Whitehouse is a far better actor in 1944 than he was when he first got on the show; if you don't believe me, I ask you to listen to some of the first audio we have of him and then listen to him a year or so later. He grows into the part.
And though we compare the two, why do we do it? They do not play the same part! While both are orphans, they are two separate people. In my opinion, the thing that makes the average Vic and Sade fan somewhat anti-Russell is the fact that we have a few re-used scripts where they say exactly the same lines. When we hear those episodes, we are forced to compare the two. For instance, a comparison of the two in the Teaching Cigar Smoking to Chinbunny (Rush/Russell) clearly show a difference in their acting careers. Idelson
However, take away Rush and those re-used scripts and try looking at Russell as an individual. In the beginning, Whitehouse has natural acting ability but the deeper you go into the series, you can hear his confidence grow. Russell was the best when he took on the never-afraid, brash kid persona. Like the time he offered to tell Mr. Overholt to vacate Mis' Harris' rooming house or the time he talks like a thug on the phone to Irvin, the delivery boy. It's unfortunate that in the surviving episodes we have of Russell, he doesn't do the brash act more often, as this seems to have been his strength.
Russell also had a laugh that is fun to listen to. As silly as that sounds, it's true. Russell could sound like an innocent child and there he was, willing to go throw Mr. Overholt off of the roof.