Barnes was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, the third of four children of a father who was a major in the United States Air Force and a mother who was a homemaker. Her childhood was marked by a series of moves to various United States military bases before her family settled in Lancaster, California. After graduating from Antelope Valley High School she moved to Reno NV, where she lasted only a few weeks at University of Nevada. She then got a job handing out free nickel flyers to lure people into the casinos. To subsidize her income, she worked as a cocktail waitress and a blackjack dealer in one of the casinos until she was unable to produce a birth certificate proving she was 21. She was subsequently fired and advised to leave the state unless she didn't want to be prosecuted. She was 17.
She then moved to San Diego, again working underage in a well known steak house. One of her customers was Bob Hope, who was taken with her looks and asked her to join his troupe for a performance at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. All she had to do was stand beside him and feed him the straight lines for his act. Well, the audience was large and raucous and the "performing bug" bit her on that stage in D.C. Also part of the troupe was Miss Universe, Lynda Carter. Lynda befriended Priscilla and encouraged her to move tp Los Angeles to pursue a career in show business. Lynda got Priscilla her first commercial agent, and Lynda also got Priscilla a job as one of the princesses in her "Wonder Woman" pilot.
While auditioning, she augmented her income as the backgammon hostess in a popular nightclub called PiPS, which was owned by Hugh Hefner. There she met Peter Falk in the kitchen while he was conversing with one of the cooks. They struck up a conversation, with Priscilla telling him her desire to become an actress, and 6 months later she received a phone call from the casting director of "Columbo" asking if she was available to play a nurse on the show that week. Priscilla promptly hung up, positive it was a prank. The casting director called back and said if she hung up again, he would tell Mr. Falk she wasn't interested.
So that's how she got in the Screen Actors Guild and played her first nurse. Little did she know that years later she would be a guest actress on shows like "Murder She Wrote", "Blacke's Magic" and "Total Security" with the writers and producers of "Columbo". Peter Falk was a dear and treasured friend up until his death in 2011.
He was her show business Godfather and they worked together in his last film "American Cowslip". He told her at the screening of "The Crossing Guard", starring Jack Nicholson and written and directed by Sean Penn that she had the looks of a leading lady, but acted like a character actress. He was very proud of her. He always wanted to paint her, but never did, and she regrets that to this day.
After her first series "American Girls" was cancelled, she became a darling of Aaron Spelling and appeared in episodes of "The Love Boat" and "Starsky and Hutch". Spelling wanted to put her under contract with ABC but Priscilla did not want to be confined to a network agenda,
Subsequently, Marcy Carsey and Tim Flack from ABC asked her to audition for the character that would replace Suzanne Summers on "Three's Company." She did. Nothing happened. She was told she had "Connecticut cheekbones" and was too sophisticated for the show.
Priscilla then went on to do a movie with Roger Moore, Lynn Redgrave and Denholm Elliot called "Sunday Lovers" and many more episodic TV shows including "Rockford Files","Kojak", "Hotel", etc and then nine months after her "Three's Company" audition and the firing of Suzanne, ABC called back and asked her to audition again for "Three's Company." Priscilla read again for the network and producers, and they hired her before she left the room - telling her,"they had found their Scarlett O'Hara".
WOW. Interestingly enough, years later, she was hired to star in "She's The Sheriff" in 1986. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she recused herself from the pilot and was replaced with Susanne Somers.
More guest stars and independent movies followed. She was then cast in Designing Women, and was "uncast" the following day, due to her similar looks to Jean Smart. In 1988 Priscilla played Felix Leiter's wife in License to Kill and was murdered by Benicio Del Toro. Some other highlights are "Mumford", directed by Lawrence Kasdan, and starring Jason Ritter, whom she loves and adores to this day, as well as as his other children, and his widows. Other projects also include Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects," plus the History Channel's "Hatfields and McCoys: Bad Blood","N.C.I.S.","Elevator Girl" and now "Magda" as the conniving murderess, missing an eye and hand because of her deadly deeds on the CW's Jane The Virgin." (2014--)