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Other than that Russell was a student at Paul R. Williams High School, nothing is known about his life before the apocalypse.
Russell is seen asleep during an English class being taught by Travis Manawa until he is woken by Travis. He initially struggles to understand the idea of Jack London's short story "The Art of Making Fire", until Travis coaxes him into indirectly revealing the correct answer.
As the city of Los Angeles quickly fell to the undead, Russell's fate remains unclear. It is unknown whether he was able to survive the outbreak or was killed and/or turned into a zombie.