In cracking open the origin story of the villainous Cruella de Vil, Disney unsurprisingly felt compelled to flesh out the histories of a handful of other characters from 101 Dalmatians. While none of said characters had the instantly recognizable style, swagger, and cackle of the fur-obsessed de Vil, that gave Cruella space to breathe some life into its supporting cast, including future Dalmatian owner Anita Darling, here played by the charming Kirby Howell-Baptiste. In the animated original, Anita was a former schoolmate of Cruella’s, and, in the 1996 live-action remake, she was a burgeoning fashion designer (played by Joely Richardson) at the House Of de Vil. Cruella finds the heroine somewhere between the two, a roving reporter who is connected to de Vil through a childhood friendship, making her a crucial pawn in the schemer’s plans to establish herself in the fashion world.
Though her costumes aren’t as flashy as her scene partner Emma Stone’s, Howell-Baptiste—best known for supporting turns in series like The Good Place, Barry, and Killing Eve—imbues Anita with a style all her own. In the video above, The A.V. Club speaks with the star about re-defining her character for a whole new generation. And, after a year-plus of quarantining at home, Howell-Baptiste shares her hopes that the fashion-forward Cruella will inspire audiences to ditch their sweats and find a renewed excitement in the way they express themselves.
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