- Holiday -Pinij From '12 Dates Of Christmas' Breaks Down The Big Twist That Landed Him The Lead Role
In Episode 5 of 12 Dates of Christmas on HBO Max, Markelle made it known that all he wanted for Christmas was… his ex, Gregory. He explains to The Dipp, “What was the point of me being there and being a lead if there was not a possibility that I would form a genuine connection with someone in the house?”
Markelle’s quick exit shocked the cast more than if they’d caught mommy kissing Santa Claus, but no one was as shaken as Pinij, one of Markelle’s potential love interests. Pinij NaLampoon, 34, is a fitness instructor from Atlanta, and when Markelle announced his departure, Pinij was gifted the role of the lead for the remainder of the show.
“As [Markelle] stood there telling us that he was still in love with his ex, I was so sure that Greg was going to walk out from somewhere and surprise us,” NaLampoon tells The Dipp ahead of the premiere. “I expected a completely new lead to walk out from somewhere. So when none of that happened and he announced that I was to become the new lead, you can only imagine the shock!”
Settling into the lead role allowed Pinij to feel more comfortable in the lodge... to an extent. Despite already being there to find love, he was now responsible for dating a group of singles and one-by-one sending them home. Nevertheless, the opportunity to find love as the lead excited him. Without the fear of being sent home, Pinij was able to focus on the end goal — finding someone he had a real connection with.
“As a love interest, your time in the lodge isn’t guaranteed, meaning there’s always that possibility of being sent home," Pinij says. "However, as a lead, not only can you not be sent home, but your chances of finding a connection greatly increase!”
And increase they did. Although he came in as the lead halfway through the season, Pinij was able to form a real connection with Winston, a hair salon owner from D.C. The journey to the final date wasn't without its obstacles though. Throughout his time on the show, Pinij was faced with what he felt was the hardest thing about stepping into the lead role: "watching people being sent home."
It was especially hard for Pinij once he became the one sending people home. "You start to bond with these people, people that are going through the same thing you're going through all in the name of finding love," he says, describing the process as "heartbreaking."
Even though he met Winston in the process of filming the show, the strongest bond Pinij formed, wasn’t necessarily with one of the contestants, but with himself. “The show definitely got me to open up more to myself, about myself, and put me in many situations where I had to peel back many layers of myself that maybe I didn't know were there to begin with.”
12 Dates of Christmas is now streaming on HBO Max.
Images: HBO Max