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She has lived with her boyfriend for 18 years, a restaurant owner who wooed her with flowers for a year. She was well into her acting streak by then and he recognized that being with Russell would mean some sacrifices.

“He knew what the deal was,” she says. “I think we’re not married because I don’t think I have time for a honeymoon.”

Russell says she enjoys the challenge of making the part fresh each time and has found herself bringing more to it as she grows older. She doesn’t see any of it ending soon.

“I want to work in the theater until I’m 100 years old and I want to keep performing,” she says. “I love getting onstage every night because it’s two hours for myself and my cellphone doesn’t ring.”

The secret to Russell’s success is simple: She’s happy.

“When I teach students, I say to them, `When you’re riding the subway in the morning, look around and see who looks happy to go to work. How many look happy?’ They say, `Not that many.’ I say, `If you want to be happy, you have to find work that you love to do.’”

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Online:

http://www.perfect-crime.com

http://www.piggynationnyc.com

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Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits