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Pinij Spills All the Tannenbaum Tea From "12 Dates of Christmas"

Including if he and Winston are still together.

Spoilers ahead for Season 2 of 12 Dates of Christmas

HBO Max is stuffing our stockings with some Christmas cuties this year. The streamer has served up a second season of 12 Dates of Christmas, a holiday-themed dating show that puts the mess in Christmess.

What sets 12 Dates of Christmas apart from other dating competition series is its queerness, with two out of the three leads being LGBTQ+. One of them, Pinij NaLampoon, was part of surprise twist halfway through the season: NaLampoon ended up replacing Markelle Smith, who gave up his spot and went home to rekindle a romance with his ex-boyfriend.

Once Pinij took the reins, he was lucky in love, ultimately falling for Washington, D.C.-based hairstylist Winston Thompson. The season ended with them still together, but what happened after the 12th date? Pinij spoke with Logo about all things 12 Dates of Christmas, including if he's still with Winston, what it was like filming in "the Lodge," and which Christmas songs he can't stand.

First off, I'm so curious: Were you looking to go on a dating show? What was the whole process like?

I wasn't looking to go on a dating show. I'd been approached on Instagram a few times in the past to do reality TV, and they've always been something that just wasn't stuff I'd be comfortable with. And when this fell in my lap, I was like, okay, it's from a reputable platform, and it's not a show about, you know, your ex on the beach or something. It's like a love story, a Christmas rom-com. Something you can watch with family. I was like, okay, I can get down with that. I've been single for a long time, and I thought, why not?

I don't normally watch dating shows, but what I like about 12 Dates of Christmas is that it's in on the joke. It's a fun watch.

It's a fun watch, yeah, exactly. And as a gay man, I love the LGBTQ+ representation. That was a draw.

What was it like filming in that giant lodge?

It was massive! So, [according to] what I was told, Justin Timberlake built it? He built this lodge, and after it was done, he was like, "I don't want it anymore." I think it's been used other times for other shows, but it's beautiful! Because the view of Lake Tahoe, it's otherworldly, and you take the whole experience living in the lodge with everybody. It was so much fun. It really was. It was great.

Was there a craziest date or craziest moment that sticks out to you?

I would probably say the bear costume, to be honest. Remember on Season 1 when Jose came in dressed as the snowman? I remember thinking, oh my God, that's crazy and ridiculous. And then the night before my first day, my producer called and was like, "So, we want you to come in as a bear." That was like the one thing that did not want to happen. But then, you know what? I know myself and my personality and the kind of person that I am, and it was so much fun. I'm glad I did it. It was silly and it was crazy, and it was like a sauna bath in there.

Oh God.

Yeah, dude — as cold as it was outside, it was so hot in that costume. They put me in a fat suit and then put me in the bear costume to fill it out. And mind you, this is the first day I come into the full experience. I was like, buckle up, here we go.

What an entrance.

I know, right?

Courtesy of HBO Max

What was it like on set when Markelle said he was leaving the show?

When I say it was probably one of the biggest moments of my life, biggest surprises of my life, I'm not kidding. Like, I think the only people that knew, honestly, were Markelle and the executive producers. They kept that shit on lock. Not even the other leads knew, so when it happened, we were all surprised. I was sad to see Markelle leave because he and I became such good friends, and then when he gifted me with the lead role, you could see everyone was quiet, and all of a sudden you could just feel the love and the support from everyone in the room. It was such a moving moment.

When you were made the new lead, did you have any hesitations? What was your thought process?

In the moment it was excitement. I was like, "Oh my gosh, yes. Thank you so much. I would love none other than this opportunity." And then the next day, things flipped. I was no longer living in the rooms with the rest of the cast. I was brought down to one of the lead rooms. That was kind of a culture shock because I definitely missed the cast, these people that I got close to. And then I was responsible for eliminating people out of the lodge. I never wanted the position to crush someone's dreams or hurt someone's feelings or reject somebody, and now I'm in a position where I have to do that. It was a weird, weird mindfuck.

What was it like seeing some of the other suitors, like Jean-Paul and Tom, fall for each other?

Going through the experience, it was encouraged to find love anywhere you can. To explore any kind of connection. So, I mean, within that realm, it wasn't a taboo thing, and when it happened, you couldn't help but just root for them, support, and love them because their love story was so real and so genuine. And it's so beautiful.

Speaking of cute, let's talk about Winston. What it like going on dates with him at the lodge and then bringing him home?

Winston is everything in real life that you see on TV. Like, he is such a bright light. He's precious, he's funny. The first scene where I meet him on the beach — Chris, when I tell you he had me cracking up the whole time, and then back at the lodge, he had everyone cracking up because he's so funny and adorable. And he's so easy to get along with and to talk to, and to connect with, and I had a connection with Markelle too, but you know, Winston's connection was just a little deeper. I knew bringing him home to meet my friends and family, I wasn't nervous at all. Not in a sense that like, I'd be nervous that they would like him. I knew they would love him. I was more nervous like, okay I haven't brought somebody home to meet my friends and family in six, seven years. So it's kind of like, I don't remember how this works again, but all that aside, I mean, they loved him. My parents ask about him all the time. So do my friends. And if you ever meet him one day, you'll understand. You can't not fall in love with Winston. He's just, he's amazing.

I have to ask, what happened after the show? Are you two still together?

So, Winston lives in D.C. and I live in L.A. I'm not gonna lie to you, this is really, really challenging. It's really complicated, but I mean, we haven't given up, we're doing the best we can, and we're gonna try to make it work for as long as we can. You know, we created a special bond and connection over the course of those intense two months, and we just didn't want to see it through.

So you guys aren't over, and you're just figuring it out?

No, we're not over. We're figuring out. It's just...it's tough, you know?

Joe Magnani/HBO Max

I totally get it. Now that we're in the holiday season, are you Christmas-ed out, or are you still in the holiday spirit?

When I tell you every day coming downstairs in the lodge, it was so beautifully designed for Christmas and astounding, and it's filmed in February, March, but after a while you kind of started to believe it really was Christmas. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. Like, I'm not bullshitting you, it really is. And I can never get over Christmas. I truly, truly love Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, what's your least favorite Christmas song? For me it's "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." I can't stand that song. What's yours?

Oh my God, honestly? That one. And I don't like "Little Drummer Boy."

Controversial.

Is it?

Do you just think it's boring?

I think it's boring.

So you're more Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson?

Yeah — Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas," and Britney Spears' "My Only Wish (This Year)." Yeah, that's it. Those are my favorites.

Classics.

Now that I'm thinking about "Little Drummer Boy," it's actually a really pretty song. It's not bad.

12 Dates of Christmas is available now on HBO Max.

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