An illustration of a man surrounded by and clutching books

“Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page,” intones Rod Serling in the 1959 Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last.” The bespectacled bank teller, played by Burgess Meredith ’31, is now so iconic among sci-fi fans that he’s available as a plastic action figure. Meredith had other famous roles—George in Of Mice and Men, Batman’s foe the Penguin, Rocky Balboa’s manager Mickey—but Henry Bemis is a mascot for all of us who’ve ever thought we wouldn’t mind the total collapse of the real world if it meant we could finally escape into the literary one.

Before his roles in Boardwalk Empire, Westworld and the Hunger Games sequels, Jeffrey Wright ’87 won a Tony for his performance in Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America and then an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2003 HBO adaptation. As a gay nurse during the 1980s AIDS crisis, his character Norman “Belize” Ariago is both a compassionate caretaker and a fierce truth teller. The play is full of ghostly apparitions and celestial prophecies, but Belize’s vision is the most down-to-earth: Heaven, as he describes it, is not a gated kingdom but a windswept city full of voting booths and dance parties—a place that is urban, queer, Black and brown.

Whether in stand-up comedy, Late Night joke writing, or film and TV acting, Aparna Nancherla ’05E has an unmistakable sensibility. Her melancholy quirkiness comes through even when she’s voicing an animated equine teenager on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman. Raised by an interspecies collective of eight adoptive dads, Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack has a name that exemplifies the series’ silliness. But her search for her biological parents unlocks a serious family secret, and her relationship with BoJack represents how much he stands to gain and to lose as he struggles to become a better person (or should I say a more stable horse?). My one disappointment is that Hollyhock enrolls at Wesleyan rather than Amherst.

Illustration by Jenny Kroik