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Getting to know the cast of RIC student short film: “The Castles”

Olivia Barone

Managing Editor


RIC film student and producer Jonathan Pineda returns with his upcoming short film: “The Castles.” In a sudden twist, he turns from his niche in the horror genre to produce a heartwarming drama set to invoke much-needed conversations surrounding mental health. Talking with Pineda and the leading cast, I was given insight into “The Castles,” wherein the heat of a set of triplet’s final summer simmers and tensions rise, forcing each character to confront the secrets they keep. 


“The story is a bird’s eye view of three fraternal triplets. It is their last summer together before two of them go to college, how they deal with their mother and with their identities… That’s basically the story: how all four characters change throughout this one summer to be a better version of themselves,” Pineda explained. 


Graphic by Jonathan Pineda

“The Castles” follows single mother Audrey Castle as she attempts to raise her three daughters: Lily, Catherine and Ashley. She has seen each of them grow independently without their late father, but not without maintaining a tight grip on their lives. Actress Tai Bacani introduced me to her character, Audrey, as a stringent yet well-intentioned parent. 


“[Audrey] was pregnant really young… The father was not into it and ended up committing suicide… From that trauma, she is a very hard person… She wants the best for her kids but she comes across as very stern. There’s not a lot of open communication with [her daughters] because of that. So they feel the need to hide things from her.” Bacani shared that her experiences as a mom would help her to put herself in Audrey’s position and convey a need for communication in parent and child relationships. 


Triplets Lily, Catherine and Ashley are played by Amaya Moniz, Izzy McElroy and Abigail Saccone respectively. Each of them reflected wholly on the character they play and it was clear to me that Pineda has provided his viewers with an admirably passionate cast. 


Moniz’z character, Lily, protects her sisters while bearing her own weight. Moniz describes Lily to be guarded due to her late father and own teen pregnancy. “[Lily is] a girl who knows what she wants. Despite the struggles she’s been through, she’s very strong. Even though she has her moments where she’s vulnerable, she can overcome anything. I think [her journey is] going to help me… That’s why I am excited to play her.”


Meanwhile, Catherine struggles with anxiety amid her family drama. “For the majority of the story, it’s the three triplets under the roof of their mom who is taking complete control of them. I feel like Catherine suppresses a lot of what she feels because she doesn’t want to start any turmoil with her mom… This leads to her developing treacherous anxiety. I see a lot of Catherine in me… I think through this character, I’ll be able to learn a lot about myself.” 


The third Castle sister, Ashley, was agreed to be the bubbliest of the triplets and the character that both Moniz and McElroy would want to play if they were cast differently. Saccone spoke fondly of her character and her journey to self-advocacy. “Ashley is just about to start college. She is going to major in musical theater, but her mom doesn’t want her to. It’s a real battle with the mother but she has a good relationship with the two sisters. [They] help her stand up for herself.” 


My first remark to Pineda upon reading the script was how distinct each character was and despite the constraints of a short film, all three sisters and their mother are intricately developed. The story incorporates the equally important struggles of each character and provides each a definitive moment of empowerment. “Each sister has their big moment and a moment to shine,” Pineda says. 


All four actresses and Pineda instilled a need for communication on and off screen and an awareness that the Castle family’s experiences are tangible. Moniz worded the essence of “The Castles” simply: “The emotions are so powerful but the connections to the relationships are so important and so heavy.” 


“I’m just excited for people to see this film. For a lot of people, it will be a wakeup call. Whether parents or kids know it or not, everybody is going through something,” McElroy commented with Pineda adding, “It is very ignorant and naive to believe that your kid, or anyone, isn’t going through anything… Realize that people are going through stuff, no matter how much they say they’re not.” 


“The Castles” is set to be filmed this summer with an official release date to be announced within the coming months. In the meantime, those interested in Pineda’s work can find short films “something is wrong with rachel” and “He Only Comes at Night” on Youtube.

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