When Santa Monica bus driver Eric Bailey received a message from an ABC Instagram account inviting him to participate in Who Wants to be a Millionaire, he assumed it was a fraud “like one of those Nigerian prince schemes,” he said. Little did he know he would soon be walking out of Sony Studios $32,000 richer.
Bailey is one of several frontline workers featured in this season of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. During the show, which was released on Nov. 1, Bailey successfully answers 10 consecutive questions on a wide range of subjects from K-pop, to SNL, to air fresheners.
“I approach a lot of situations with far more confidence than I should—it’s both a gift and a curse that I’ve had throughout my life,” said Bailey. “I think that’s why I was able to get through as many rounds as I did.”
Bailey faced Kimmel’s questions with confidence and bravery, which is the same attitude he has used to navigate life as an essential worker during the pandemic.
“You can’t really convert driving a bus to a working from home type of job,” said Bailey. “Of course there are those concerns of safety and health, but one: I still had a duty to do, and two: I still had a family to provide for, so I had to go out there and keep doing my job.”
As for his $32,000 prize money, Bailey intends to set it aside to help buy a house one day for his wife and three-year old child. During the filming Bailey got the chance to chat and joke with Jimmy Kimmel who also has a three-year old and shares many of the same parental joys and struggles.
The filming of the show this season looks a little different than in prior years. The guests are either essential workers or celebrities playing for charity. Although there is no live audience, contestants had the chance to invite an expert guest to come with them on set and help them answer questions.
Bailey invited his friend Alberto Argueta to be his guest who he described as “definitely the smartest person I know.” Bailey met Argueta at his first ever job working as a ticket seller at universal studios, and the two have been friends for the past sixteen years.
Bailey is originally from Lynwood and has worked as a Santa Monica bus driver for seven years. While Covid-19 has brought new challenges and stresses to the job, Bailey said he enjoys working for the city and looks forward to the eventual return of its tourists.
“There’s not a lot of jobs where you can meet somebody that lives off 4th and Wilshire, but the next person you meet grew up in Melbourne, Australia,” said Bailey. “It’s been really fun seeing literally everyone from all over the globe come to this city just to check the pier out.”
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire airs Sundays at 9:00pm on ABC and can be streamed on FuboTV and Hulu + Live.