Russell's first role was in the 1982 film Let's Do It!. In 1983, Russell's breakout role came as Jordan Leigh-Jenson in the, Private School. While shooting the film Avenging Angel, she was offered to audition for the 1985 film Silverado but turned it down. She said in an interview, "Everything happens for a reason. I always believe my career would have been different had I done that part. I can’t say if it would have been better or worse. I’ve had a good run". She went on to star in a series of B movies in the 1980s including Tomboy, and Cheerleader Camp.
After a brief retirement from acting, Russell appeared in a small role in Saw III playing Jigsaw's John Kramer's ex-wife, Jill Tuck. She went on to star in the sequels, Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI, and Saw 3D.