Claire Skinner husband

Coma actress Claire Skinner fell in love with Outnumbered co-star Hugh Dennis in real life

It was a 'surprise', she admits

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Claire Skinner appears in Channel 5 thriller Coma this week, but she is probably most famous for playing world-weary Sue Brockman in Outnumbered – the show in which she met her real life partner.

From 2007 to 2016, the actress played the onscreen wife of comedian and actor Hugh Dennis – a relationship which subsequently spilled out into the real world.

So what has she said about finding love on set, what is she famous for, and is she still coupled up with her Outnumbered co-star Hugh Dennis? Here’s everything you need to know…

Claire Skinner as CSI Ormond
Actress Claire Skinner joined the cast of McDonald & Dodds as CSI Ormond in series 3 (Credit: ITV1)

What is Claire Skinner famous for?

TV viewers will be very familiar with actress Claire Skinner. She’s been on our TV screens ever since 1988 when she made her first appearance as Laura in South of the Border.

She went on to star as Lucinda in Chef!, Susan Harvey in The Peter Principle, and Claire in Life Begins. You’ll also recognise her from a multitude of popular TV series including The Pale Horse, Next of Kin, Power Monkeys and Critical.

In films, she’s portrayed Natalie in Life is Sweet, Magda in Bridget Jones’ Diary, and Beth Killian in Sleepy Hollow.

But, of course, Claire Skinner is probably best known for playing Sue Brockman in the BBC series Outnumbered. She played the role of the mum-of-three on and off from 2007 to 2016.

The British sitcom about the Brockman family, starred Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner as the parents of three children, played by Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez.

More recently, Claire known the cast of McDonald and Dodds, where she played Chief Superintendent Mary Ormond (see below). She also played Charlotte Twist in The Chelsea Detective, Cora in the film The Critic, and Kerry in Murder, They Hope.

In March 2024, she plays Beth in the cast of Channel 5 thriller Coma. She plays the wife of Jason Watkins’ character Simon. It’s the second time the pair have worked together in recent years. Of course, Claire plays Jason’s boss in McDonald & Dodds.

Is Claire Skinner in McDonald & Dodds?

Actress Claire Skinner played Chief Superintendent Mary Ormond in the cast of McDonald & Dodds series 3. The character replaced James Murray’s Chief Supt John Houseman, who of course went on to portray Prince Andrew in The Crown.

Claire described her character Mary as “fierce”, “tough” and “very private”. She said: “She comes in and appears to be quite tough, but over the episodes you do see that she is very committed to the job and there’s a warmth there somewhere, deep down.

“She sees something special in McDonald – she notices her as an original thinker, who just needs to be reined in a bit and she admires her.

“When it comes to Dodds, it looks like she’s critical of him, but she starts to see that he just has different thought processes.”

Claire also explained that she has played a few policewomen over the years, and that TV shows “always have police advisors to talk to you”.

Promo shot of Channel 5 thriller Coma
Claire Skinner and Jason Watkins star together again – this time in Channel 5 thriller Coma (Credit: Channel 5)

Why did Outnumbered end?

The BBC axed Outnumbered after its fifth series in 2016. They said they didn’t want to produce a 6th series in a bid to avoid making more “just for the sake of it”.

The hugely popular BBC1 sitcom won tons of awards. These included Best Comedy at the National Television Awards, and a Royal Television Society award.

It was widely praised for its young stars’ use of improvisation to create a convincing version of British family life. Tyger Drew-Honey, who played Jake, said at the time: “This series is the last series. Never say never, but the directors and writers have said that they don’t want to do another.

“Some shows do go on too long and some of them are just making more series for the sake of it.”

The comedy did return for a one-off Christmas special in 2016, though.

How old is Coma star Claire Skinner? Where is she from?

Claire Skinner was born in 1965 and is thought to be 58 years old. We don’t blame her for not revealing her true age, though!

The actress was born in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

She went on to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and later joined the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Outnumbered cast at NTA Awards
Claire Skinner at the NTA Awards with the cast of Outnumbered, including real life partner Hugh Dennis (Credit: David Fisher/Shutterstock)

Who is the partner of Claire Skinner?

Claire is in a relationship with her Outnumbered co-star Hugh Dennis. The pair fell in love after filming the BBC One sitcom.

Claire was previously married to director Charles Palmer, with whom she has two sons called William John and Thomas Henry. Their marriage ended in 2016.

Dad-of-two Hugh, meanwhile, split from his second wife, Kate Abbot-Anderson, in 2015. Claire has referred to her romance with Hugh as a “lovely little life surprise”.

The couple did not start dating until after Outnumbered had finished filming.

Hugh recalled the beginnings of their relationship on an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live earlier in 2019.

He said at the time: “We did an Outnumbered Christmas special about three years ago and then met up again about a year and a half ago.”

The actor confirmed his romance with Claire to the Mail in 2018, saying: “I am very, very happy, we are so very happy. It’s nice and yes, it’s so lovely.”

Claire, meanwhile, appeared on Lorraine and said of the relationship: “It’s a lovely little life surprise, isn’t it? It’s a lovely thing.”

Are Hugh Dennis and partner Claire Skinner still together?

Claire and Hugh are reportedly still together, although they like to keep out of the public eye.

Neither are on social media, and they don’t attend red carpet events together.

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Coma airs from Monday, March 18, 2024 to Thursday, March 21, 2024 at 9pm on Channel 5.

Would you like to see the return of Outnumbered? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.

Helen Fear
TV Editor