Gemma Bissix as Clare Cunningham (2013)
|Portrayed by||Samantha Rowley (2005–06)
Gemma Bissix (2006–13)
|Duration||2005–07, 2009, 2013|
|First appearance||26 December 2005|
|Last appearance||16 October 2013|
|Introduced by||David Hanson (2005)
Bryan Kirkwood (2009, 2013)
|Hollyoaks: Back from the Dead (2006)|
|Occupation||Events supervisor (2005–06)
Club owner (2007, 2013)
Clare Cunningham (née Black, previously Devine) is a fictional character from the British Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, played by actresses Gemma Bissix and Samantha Rowley. Bissix agreed to reprise the role in 2009 for the culmination of her character's enemies, Warren Fox (Jamie Lomas) and Justin Burton's (Chris Fountain) storylines. She later returned to the show in 2013. The character was killed off in October 2013 and Bissix said that it would allow the Hollyoaks to develop other villainous characters. Bissix has won three British Soap Awards for her portrayal of Clare. She has also been named one of the best British soap opera characters.
On 17 March 2009. Kris Green from Digital Spy revealed that Clare could be returning to the show to coincide with Warren Fox (Jamie Lomas) and Justin Burton's (Chris Fountain) exit storylines. The return was soon confirmed. Series producer Bryan Kirkwood telephoned Bissix in December 2008 with the return offer. The succeeding producer Lucy Allan told Kris Green from Digital Spy that Clare was "pivotal in the culmination" of Justin and Warren's departure stories. She added that it would have been a "disservice" to the show not to feature her. It was revealed that Clare would return seeking revenge and traps Warren and Justin in a fire at The Loft nightclub. Clare returns in an unhinged state of mind. Bissix told the Press Association that "she's come back slightly unhinged and there isn't much that gets in her way and that's what I think is so exciting."
In February 2013, it was announced that Bissix had agreed to return to Hollyoaks. Bissix had previously expressed her desire to return in August 2009. The return scenes were scheduled to broadcast in March that year. Bissix expressed excitement to work with Kirkwood again. It was announced that Clare's arrival would cause problems for Mercedes McQueen (Jennifer Metcalfe) and Doctor Browning (Joseph Thompson). While appearing on chat show The Wright Stuff Bissix hyped Clare's behaviour on her return as "extra evil". She told the Press Association that old viewers pledged to watch the show again upon Clare's reemergence. Bissix added that the drama Clare creates defines the soap opera genre. Clare was only written back into the series for the short storyline as Bissix had other work commitments. The actress later announced that she intended to rejoin the regular cast.
Bissix told a Birmingham Mail reporter that she would resume filming in July with her return airing in September. She said her return storyline was a "top secret" and that "just when I think she can’t get any worse, she does." Clare returned on-screen during the show's "first look" episode on 26 September 2013 and was being held in prison. Producers decided to keep details of her reappearance a secret until transmission. Fraser Black (Jesse Birdsall) being revealed as her father was another secret aspect of the storyline. However Clare was killed off in another "shock" storyline twist, which sees Doctor Browning run her over with his car. Bissix described Clare as the best character she had played in her career and thanked her supportive fans. She explained that Clare's departure would ultimately allow other villains to become embroiled in main storylines.
Clare is hired by Max Cunningham (Matt Littler) and O.B. (Darren Jeffries) as The Loft's events supervisor. The two men compete for Clare's attentions and she chooses to be with Max. They keep their romance hidden from O.B. but tell the truth when Clare moves into Max's home. Clare befriends Mandy Richardson (Sarah Jayne Dunn) and Louise Summers (Roxanne McKee) and they help in a time-share scam initiated by Sean Kennedy (Matthew Jay Lewis). He tries to seduce Clare who rebuffs his advances.
When Clare later discovers that Sean is wealthy she seduces him. Mel Burton (Cassie Powney) discovers their affair and Clare discredits Mel as an alcoholic. When O.B. becomes concerned she decides to plot against him and ruin his friendship with Max. Tom also overhears Clare's deceit and she attempts to alienate Max. Clare is delighted when she becomes engaged to Max but is annoyed to learn he has asked O.B. to be his best man. O.B. discovers that Clare is planning to steal Max's money so she plants drugs on him which results in his arrest. But he manages to invade the wedding resulting in Max attacking him. Clare prevents Max from wanting children by claiming she was abused as a child and infitile. He gives her fifty-thousand pounds and she decides to run away with it. She sleeps with Warren but O.B., Mel, Sophie Burton (Connie Powney) obtain a DVD of the affair and threaten to show Max. When she learns that Mel and Sophie have been killed in an explosion she decides to remain in the village and steals the DVD from a hospitalised O.B.
Max has a heart attack after taking cocaine and she discovers that he has a life insurance policy worth £500, 000. When he is released from hospital she begins isolating him from his friends. She tampers with his medication to prevent his recovery. He becomes really ill when holidaying with Clare in a secluded location and discovers the truth. Clare locks Tom in her car and tells Max he is drowning in a nearby lake. He attempts to save Tom but cannot find the strength to stay above water. But O.B. arrives to save Max and punches Clare in the face. Clare manages to convince the police of no wrongdoing and Max ends their relationship.
Max later tries to strangle Clare when she abducts Tom from his school. While away, Clare tries to sell Max's flat and The Loft. She begins hitting herself in an attempt to frame Max for assault. The police arrive just as Max is forcing Clare out of his home and he is arrested. Max signs his share of The Loft over to Clare so that she will leave him alone. Clare then becomes annoyed with her business partner, Warren and tries to trick Justin into being her accomplice to rid of Warren. She frames Warren for Sean's murder to remove him from the club. Clare convinces Louise to have an abortion and tell fiancé Calvin it was a miscarriage. Clare tells Calvin the truth and Louise attacks Clare. Clare convinces Tom he is responsible for deaths in his family. She then convinces the social services that Max is abusing Tom. She later taunts O.B. over Mel and Sophie's death and he attacks her. Clare is then pushed off a balcony and is hospitalised.
Warren is arrested for the crime and Clare is later released from hospital when she wakes from a coma. Max threatens Clare to tell the social services the truth. Warren is found not guilty at trial and he attacks Clare and forces her to sign over her share of The Loft. Clare decides to leave the village but Justin reveals that he pushed Clare because of her comments about his sisters Mel and Sophie. To gain revenge Clare kidnaps his girlfriend Katy and Warren enlists the help of Justin and Max to find her. Clare leaves a series of clues for the trio to solve as she hopes to be found. It transpires that in exchange for Katy's freedom Warren must bring her Justin's dead body. They decide to try and fool her and but when Clare realises the it is a trap she drives off with Katy and a car chase ensues. Clare drives the car off a cliff and it plummets into a lake. Everyone believes Clare has drowned but she is later seen at an airport embarking on a new life.
Clare returns to the village to gain revenge on Warren. She takes him hostage and starts a fire at The Loft. Calvin interrupts the situation but Clare convinces him to leave and let Warren die. Hannah Ashworth (Emma Rigby) enters The Loft to stop Clare and a fight ensues. The scuffles results in a banister breaking and them falling to the next floor. Warren is presumed dead in the fire and Clare is arrested.
Clare meets Mercedes in Las Vegas and she claims that her husband, Doctor Browning, has tried to seduce her. They concoct a plan to extort money from Doctor Browning. Clare helps Mercedes fake her disappearance and blackmail him for ransom money. When Mercedes realises that Clare has been lying she decides to stop the scheme. But Clare knocks Mercedes unconscious taking her hostage for real. Jacqui McQueen (Claire cooper), manages to get her hands on enough money to pay the ransom, but the bag containing the money is accidentally taken by Leanne Holiday (Jessica Forest). Claire then lures Doctor Browning to the scrapyard where she is holding Mercedes hostage, knocks him unconscious and places him in the cage next to Mercedes. Browning then makes Claire believe that Tom has the money and attacks Tom but the Police are called and she is taken away. Fraser and Jim McGinn (Dan Tetsell) visit Clare in prison, Fraser asks Jim to help secure her release. She tells him never to return and she will not forgive him. But Clare cannot cope with prison life and accepts help. When she is released Fraser hands over The Loft to Clare. She reveals that she was pregnant with Trevor's baby and Fraser pushed her down some stairs causing a miscarriage. Clare wants revenge and decides to plant a bomb in The Loft. She invites Mercedes to have her birthday part inside, but when Clare detonates the bomb a block of council flats blow up instead. Clare is then killed when Mercedes pushes her in front of Doctor Browning's car following a fight.
For her portrayal of Clare, Bissix was won "Villain of the Year" at the 2007 British Soap Awards. She was also nominated for "Best Actress". The following year she won "Best Exit" and "Spectacular Scene Of The Year" for her departure storyline.
Bissix also played Clare Bates in rival soap-opera EastEnders. The characters shared similarities and a writer from the The Herald suggested that Bissix actually played an identical role between the two shows. Bissix has acknowledged the comparisons but noted that Clare Devine lacks emotion, kills people and taunts little children. Bissix has also claimed that men are scared of her because of the "super bitch" role.
Clare was featured on a list of "bunny boilers" compiled in the Radio Times. A writer described her as "Devine by name, devilish by nature, Clare married Max for his money and then repeatedly tried to kill him for it. She made enemies easily, notably Warren and Justin, and when she was pushed over a balcony and almost killed, the list of suspects was longer than the electoral roll." Digital Spy's Green wrote of his disappointment of Clare's 2009 return. He branded Clare as a "fabulous character" deserving more than being "a mere plot device" in other character's departures. However, 53 per cent of readers were pleased with the return.
Clare was placed at number 7 in a Virgin Media feature about "soap's greatest comebacks". A writer for the site quipped "After seemingly falling to her death twice, it seems nothing can keep this Hollyoaks bad girl down. Clare last resurfaced, in barking mad fashion, to kill off arch-enemy Warren Fox. Now she's banged up, but we don't imagine we've seen the last of her just yet..."
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