After leaving school, William volunteered to join the RAF. “I was already by then going to Oxford. In those days we did a short course which was half the week. We were playing at being airmen and we were playing at being undergraduates the other three days.” Eventually he joined the RAF full time before returning to Oxford to take a degree in English, although he admits. “At that time I wasn’t really concentrating on the work but on theatrical activities. In my day Oxford had the OUADS- the Oxford University Amateur Dramatics Society, and there’s- I hope its still going- The Experimental Theatre Club. There was also organisations within each college that you could join. At the very beginning I didn’t do any acting; the first thing I did was direct a play for my college.” By the time he completed the degree, William had opted to try a career in acting- but he met with some resistance at home. “I had a terrible row with my father because I was going to be an actor and it was a great struggle.”
William Russell talks about his education and start in acting (DWM, 1995)
It was marvellous, it was really fun. To start with, I remember we rehearsed in some terrible church hall. As we became more successful, we went to Riverside which was really nice, we had it all there. It was a busy week because you didn’t get a lot of time off, but we had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs all the time. And we all got on very well which I think was one of those happy accidents of chemistry, really. The four of us got on and Verity got on with us so it was all very open- if we didn’t like something we said so. When Dennis Spooner came in as script editor he was wonderful; you could go and buttonhole Dennis and say, ‘I can’t say this’ and he’d say, ‘oh well give me five minutes.’ He’d come back and the script would be much better.
William Russell (DWM, 1995)
William Russell Enoch is all my name. I started as Russell Enoch and I was an actor for nine years as that- everybody in my family calls me Russell. I went back to it when I joined ATC- I thought, ‘I’m a character actor now’- but it was a disastrous mistake, a very stupid thing to do. When I did Coronation Street, I thought ‘That’s it I must go back to William Russell, no one’s heard of Russell Enoch’ […] I did a film with Norman Wisdom called Trouble in Store. There was another comic around at the time called Enoch, so they suggested I changed my name. I didn’t know what the hell to call myself. It was my mother who said ‘why don’t you use your two christian names? William Russell sounds quite a nice name.’
William Russell talks about his acting names. (DWM, 1995)