Born in San Diego, California, Betsy Russell is best known for her starring role as “Jill Tuck,” the ex-wife of the Jigsaw Killer in the “Saw” film series. Russell was born into a family of educators–her father, iconic economist Richard Russell, wrote a news letter about the stock market for over 50 years called “Dow Theory Letters,” and her grandfather, Max Lerner, was an author and syndicated columnist, said to be one of the great minds of our time. Russell seemed to be destined for greatness and decided to set the bar high for herself when making career moves and setting goals. At 16 years of age she landed her first real gig in the business, a Pepsi commercial in her hometown of San Diego, California. This sparked a fire within her, and she immediately made the move to Los Angeles to pursue acting full time.
Russell landed her first TV role on the series The Powers of Matthew Star (1982) with one line. After that TV roles began to pour in, until she landed an audition for a film that would change her career: the cult classic Private School (1983). She booked the role on the spot, being cast as “Jordon Leigh-Jensen,” playing opposite her idol Phoebe Cates. The film launched Russell into Hollywood stardom, and she quickly became known as the “it-girl”. Her scene riding a horse topless in slow motion made her an ’80s icon. She continued to work steadily in film, starring in such films as Tomboy (1985), Avenging Angel (1985) and Cheerleader Camp (1988), and did guest-starring roles in such top-rated television series as The A-Team (1983), T.J. Hooker (1982) and Family Ties (1982). At the height of her career she met actor and tennis star Vincent Van Patten at The Playboy Mansion, where she visited frequently as her grandfather was a close friend of Hugh Hefner. Van Patten and Russell married in 1989 and had two beautiful boys. She decided to take a hiatus from acting, to focus on her family and raising her children.
Van Patten and Russell divorced in 2001, and she decided to move to Malibu, California, to continue raising her family. Soon after her divorce she received a call from “Saw” producer Mark Burg about an upcoming role in the series. Russell jumped at the opportunity to work in one of the biggest horror franchises in the history of film, and returned to the screen starring as “Jill Tuck” in Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures’ Saw III (2006), Saw IV (2007), Saw V (2008), Saw VI (2009) and Saw: The Final Chapter (2010).
Russell is an avid writer, has a huge passion for various charities, she holds a real-estate license and is a certified hypnotist. While she continues to love acting, she considers “Spiritual Psychology” and life coaching her other passion. She completed a three-year Masters program at The University of Santa Monica in this field, with an emphasis on consciousness health and healing, and hopes to help others with healing their issues and learning communication skills and has begun teaching workshops to actors on this subject.
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