Hollyoaks Favourites is revisiting the era of Clare Devine, one of the show’s most iconic bad girls who schemed her way through the village from 2006 until her eventual demise in 2013.
This week’s classic Hollyoaks focus on her attempted murder of husband Max Cunningham at Christmas 2006 so she could inherit his cash, and her spectacular escape in 2007 which saw her cheat death despite crashing into a lake…
In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, actress Gemma Bissix, who shot to fame as a child star in EastEnders during the 1990s, recalls playing the bitchy blonde and chooses her best moment – or should that be worst?
What did you enjoy most about playing Clare?
The character was a release for me, I’m quite a nice person but sometimes that means you can be a bit of a pushover so it was good to act out all the things I wanted to do to other people but never could – it was like therapy! And the place was like a home to me, I loved the people and being in Liverpool.
Of all the terrible things she did, what was the worst?
The way she treated little Tom Cunningham, Max’s brother. She told Tom he was cursed and it was his fault so many members of his family died, I remember hating having to say those words to him but it was so well-written! Clare was on another level and had tunnel vision for herself, anyone who stood in the way, no matter how young, she would go after. It made her so iconic.
Did you enjoy working with Ellis, he was very young at the time?
I have Ellis to thank for making Clare so iconic as he made Tom so sweet, and their interaction showed her far she was prepared to go. I’m so proud of him, often child actors are recast in soaps as they get older but he’s developed into such a great actor and kept a level head. He was a joy. In rehearsals we would talk about Clare as a real person and how much we both hated her! We’d do the lines as Gemma and Ellis, then I’d tell him I was going to do it as Clare to show how scary it was going to be. Then as soon as we cut I’d say ‘It’s okay, I’m Gemma again!’.
What was your favourite moment?
The final scene in the airport departure lounge when it was revealed she survived the car crash when I left the first time in 2007. Seeing those red stilettos, putting on the red lipstick – Clare Devine fans say that is their favourite moment, suddenly she’s alive! People tell me it’s what I’m the most famous for! The producer Bryan Kirkwood asked me to look at the camera directly which you don’t really do in soap, but it was a way of making the audience in on it with Clare. It was so iconic – and so camp!
Who are you still in touch with from the cast?
James Sutton (John Paul McQueen) is one of my best friends, he came to my wedding, and vice versa. Nick Pickard (Tony Hutchinson) is a dear friend and I see him a lot. I’ve become close to Tamara Wall who plays Clare’s sister Grace Black, even though we never actually worked together as she came in after Clare died. We both come from the same area and bumped into each other when she joined Hollyoaks. We’re very similar, were cast as sisters and played the same sort of character and now we FaceTime once a week! It’s great Clare still has family in the show, Hollyoaks was like a real family to me for all those years.
Why did you leave in 2007, and was it a difficult decision to return later on?
By then it had exhausted all the options of what she could do and it was time to move on. It was never open-ended and a character like Clare always has an expiry date. Then they decided to bring her back a few years later and I quickly said of course! She was eventually killed off in 2013 and some fans wish she hadn’t died, but I prefer to be missed than to outstay my welcome. Leave them wanting more!
You’re a mum now, have your kids ever seen you as Clare?
My daughter Juliet is four years old and I tried to explain to her mummy used to be an actress and what that means. She thinks the programmes on TV are real! I told her my character was horrible and mean and now she keeps saying: ‘I can’t wait to see mummy as evil Clare!’ We’re watching them as they go out this week. Maybe my children will never look at me in the same way again!
Hollyoaks Favourites is on Wednesday-Friday at 7.00pm on E4. Visit our dedicated Hollyoaks page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers. If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV guide.