Kirby Howell-Baptiste hopes Cruella inspires audiences to find their style, be fabulous

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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