Priscilla Barnes is a name that resonates with many, primarily for her role as the smart and sexy nurse, Terri Alden, on the iconic ABC sitcom “Three’s Company.” However, her journey in the entertainment industry is much more profound than just this role. Barnes is a true survivor, having navigated the highs and lows of Hollywood with grace and resilience.
Born in 1954 in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Priscilla Barnes is the third of four children.
Her father was a major in the United States Air Force, and her mother was a homemaker. Due to her father’s military service, Barnes’s childhood involved moving across various military bases in the U.S. before settling in Lancaster, California.
Priscilla graduated high school at 15 due to her unhappiness with her environment and briefly attended the University of Reno, Nevada. She left college after two weeks and worked as a cocktail waitress.
Barnes’s entry into the entertainment world was serendipitous. She was discovered by the legendary Bob Hope during a local fashion show. He invited her to join him on his tour as “Miss San Diego”.
This chance encounter paved the way for her to venture into television and movies. Some of her early works include an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” which was filmed in Utah and is a beloved time travel movie.
Around the same time, she starred in the CBS TV series “The American Girls,” which unfortunately had a short run in 1978.
Another notable early work was a TV movie called "A Vacation in Hell," where Barnes starred alongside Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) and Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick). In this film, Barnes portrayed a beautiful blonde who was much smarter and savvier than she initially appeared. This movie is considered a cult classic and showcases some of Barnes’s best work from the early stages of her career.
Barnes’s most recognized role came when she joined the cast of “Three’s Company” as Jack and Janet’s third roomate, Nurse Terri Alden. While she was excited about the opportunity, she soon found herself questioning her decision.
A few episodes in, she even requested to be released from her contract. The producers, having previously dealt with Suzanne Somers’ contract renegotiations, were not keen on letting Barnes go. They believed that Barnes’s character could bring more depth to the sitcom.
In the 1998 TV program “E! True Hollywood Story,” Barnes described her time on “Three’s Company” as the “three worst years” of her life, citing tension among the cast members.
Despite the challenges, Barnes delivered outstanding performances throughout her time on the show. She brought a unique charm and essence to her character, differentiating herself from Suzanne Somers and Jenilee Harrison. Her camaraderie with co-stars, especially Joyce DeWitt, was evident, and the two remain great friends to this day.
Priscilla Barnes graced the show for its final three seasons, from 1981 to 1984, appearing in a total of 70 episodes.
Post Three’s Company Career
Despite challenges with producers and fears of being stereotyped in light-hearted comedy, Barnes persisted with the renowned show. In an industry often overlooking aging female TV stars, she carved a niche, bringing a spirited charm to TV series like “Dark Justice,” “Viper,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and episodes of “The Love Boat.”
Barnes also transitioned successfully from television to movies. She appeared in the James Bond film “Licence to Kill” with Timothy Dalton. Although her character faced a tragic end in the movie, it was evident that Barnes had made a successful shift to the big screen.
Barnes continued to find steady work in a variety of films, showcasing her versatility as an actor. Some of her notable works include the Sean Penn directed “The Crossing Guard,” where she co-starred with Jack Nicholson, Kevin Smith’s “Mallrats,” and Rob Zombie’s “The Devil’s Rejects.”
She frequently appeared in low-budget films, Barnes embraced numerous horror roles in movies such as “Stepfather III,” “Witch Academy,” “The Backlot Murders,” Trailer Park of Terror and Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield.
What is Priscilla Barnes Doing Now
In recent years, Barnes has continued to remain active in the entertainment industry. From 2014 to 2019, she played a recurring role in the CW comedy-drama series “Jane the Virgin.”
Also in 2019, she participated in the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s production of “To Quiet the Quiet.”
In 2022, she played Pam in the short film “Un plan simple” and took on the role of Veronica in the TV series “Extraction” in 2020.
in 2017, Barnes participated in the 40th Anniversary Reunion of Three’s Company. Alongside Barnes, Joyce DeWitt, Richard Kline, and Jenilee Harrison joined the episode, reminiscing about their time on set, sharing behind-the-scenes stories, and reflecting on the show’s enduring legacy.
Their shared experiences, both the highs and the challenges, made the reunion a heartfelt and nostalgic event for both the actors and their devoted audience.
On the personal front, Barnes is married to actor Ted Monte. In 2012, the couple purchased a home in Glendale, California. They also run an Air BnB in Glendale, CA, which they have named Villa Priscilla and which can be rented for $379 night.
From her early days in New Jersey to her iconic role in “Three’s Company” and her recent appearances, Barnes has left an indelible mark on the industry. As fans, we can only look forward to seeing more of her in the years to come.