‘Three’s Company’ Star Priscilla Barnes Called Time on Show ‘Three Worst Years’ of Life

by Josh Lanier
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Three’s Company producers fired Suzanne Somers after five seasons on the show when she demanded a pay raise. They hired Priscilla Barnes to replace her, but looking back, Barnes wishes she’d said no. She called her time on the series “the three worst years” of her life.

Three’s Company was already a well-established hit when Priscilla Barnes joined the cast in 1980. John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt, and Somers saw to that. But after Somers fell out with producers over her pay, they tried to retool the series. The bubbly Crissy was out, and in was Cindy Snow, her equally as ditzy cousin. But when that didn’t work, they turned to Barnes, who stepped in as Terri Alden.

Alden was different than her predecessors. The show did away with the dumb blonde trope and tried to rebrand that role as the “blonde with brains” as Alden was a registered nurse.

“I’m glad the producers don’t want me to play dumb,” she told PEOPLE in 1980. “Because I’d always be compared to Suzanne.”

But that changed the show. Terri didn’t fit in as well with the formula that Three’s Company had created over the previous six seasons. As a result, Barnes’ role was much less prominent than Somers’. Behind the scenes, she also found herself with little to no power or control. She felt like a prop.

“Our bosses were very, very controlling,” she told CNN in 2002. “If my hair was too blond, I’d get called up in the office.”

She loved her castmates. She called Ritter a “genius.” But she hated her time on the show, saying they were the “three worst years” of her life. That was partly because of the show’s plot, which she found limiting.

“It was very formula,” she said of Three’s Company. “It was a box.”

Priscilla Barnes On Life After ‘Three’s Company’

Barnes continued acting after leaving Three’s Company in 1984. The popularity of that series held her back, she said, as casting directors only saw Terri Alden for a time, but that eventually changed.

She continued acting throughout the 80s with small roles in The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote. She even turned up as Felix Leiter’s fiancee in the 1989 James Bond film License to Kill. She’s still acting today with stints on the CW series Jane the Virgin as Magda.

Her most prominent role is still Three’s Company. She may have been unhappy on the show, but fans still remember her fondly.

“A lot of the fans of the show think that Priscilla was great,” Three’s Company historian Chris Mann said. “She would never be Chrissy, but what happened is the focus post-Suzanne became on Don Knotts as the sort of dumb blond, so to speak. It became kind of a different show in that you didn’t have someone so flashy as Chrissy. So the third roommate role became a bit more of a supporting role with John and Joyce, and I think Priscilla did remarkably. I think she’s underrated, and people always have an affinity for the originals.”

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