Childhood & Early Life
Priscilla Barnes was born on December 7, 1954, in Fort Dix, New Jersey. She was the third of the four children in the family. Her father worked in the ‘US Air Force,’ which led the family to keep moving to different cities in the US and settling in various ‘Air Force’ bases, where her father was posted. Hence, she spent the initial few years of her childhood on the move.
The family finally settled in Lancaster, California, from where Priscilla finished her high-school education. She attended the ‘Antelope Valley High School.’ More than acting, Priscilla was interested in dancing, during her teenage years. She had joined a group called ‘The Vivacious Vixens’ during her pre-teen years.
Her dreams of becoming a professional dancer came to a halt when she broke her leg during a performance at the ‘Hollywood Bowl.’ She was an average student academically, and her interests naturally shifted toward acting.
Following her high-school graduation, at the age 17, Priscilla moved to San Diego in search of work in the entertainment industry. During her initial years there, she did odd jobs to survive. She worked as a waitress and also participated in some beauty pageants, such as ‘Miss California’ and ‘Miss Hollywood.’ In the former pageant, she was the first runner-up and had also won the title of ‘Miss Photogenic.’
Her chance encounter with Bob Hope during a fashion show turned Priscilla’s fate around. He invited her to join his troupe, which was to perform at the ‘Walter Reed Army Medical Center’ in 1973. This was the break she was looking for. Subsequently, she moved to Los Angeles and began auditioning for TV and film roles.
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Priscilla made her acting debut in 1976, playing a small role in the series titled ‘Cannon.’ The next year, she was signed on to play a small role in the B-grade horror film ‘Tintorera.’
In 1977, she was offered the supporting role of ‘Leslie Valentine’ in the independent film ‘Beyond Reason.’ Her acting skills were not considered worthy of key roles, and most of her early roles were small and had her playing bold young women. She continued to appear in small roles in series such as ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ ‘The Rockford Files,’ ‘Taxi,’ and ‘The Love Boat.’
In the late 1970s, she continued to play inconsequential roles in some unmemorable films, such as ‘Texas Detour,’ ‘Delta Fox,’ and ‘The Seniors.’
She bagged a few better roles on TV. In 1978, she was seen playing ‘Rebecca Tomkins,’ a travel reporter in the series ‘The American Girls.’ It was the first leading role of her career, but the series was a commercial and critical failure. It was taken off-air after six episodes.
In 1980, she starred in a comedy film titled ‘Sunday Lovers,’ which had strong erotic undertones. The anthology film had four stories, and Priscilla appeared in the segment titled ‘An Englishman’s Home,’ playing ‘Donna,’ one of the leading roles of the film.
The following year, she earned her first major acting breakthrough, when she was signed on to play one of the main roles in the sitcom titled ‘Three’s Company.’ She was hired as a permanent replacement for actor Suzanne Somers, who portrayed the character of ‘Terri Alden.’ The series was a big commercial and critical hit.
She appeared in the sitcom until 1984, in spite of her increasing dissatisfaction with her role and the producers of the show. Despite the fact that ‘Three’s Company’ brought her a lot of attention, she claimed that she hated being typecast in a comedy role.
Incidentally, she declined ace director Steven Spielberg’s offer to be part of the 1984 movie ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ as ‘Willie Scott’ because she was busy working for ‘Three’s Company.’
She focused more on her TV projects than films in the 1980s and appeared in series such as ‘The Love Boat,’ ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ and ‘Hotel.’ One of her major films was the 1989 ‘Bond’ film ‘Licence to Kill,’ in which she played ‘Della Churchill Leiter,’ the wife of a CIA agent. It was a small role.
In the 1990s, she focused more on her glamorous avatar on TV and appeared in series such as ‘Dark Justice’ and ‘Viper.’
In the 1990s, she focused more on horror films and appeared in movies such as ‘Stepfather III,’ ‘Witch Academy,’ ‘Unseen Evil 2,’ and ‘The Devil’s Rejects.’ She played glamorous roles in those films, and her characters mostly received gory deaths.
She donned the producer’s cap for ‘Sex Sells: The Making of 'Touché,’’ ‘The A Plate,’ and the short film ‘88 Miles to Moscow.’
Lately, she is perhaps best known for her role of ‘Magda Andel’ in the romantic-comedy series ‘Jane the Virgin.’ She played the recurring character for 33 episodes.
Family & Personal Life
In 2003, Priscilla Barnes got married to actor Ted Monte.
Priscilla and her ‘Three’s Company’ co-stars Richard Kline and Joyce DeWitt are good friends, having worked in the series for a long time.
She once sued ‘Penthouse’ for re-publishing her nude photos under her actual name.