Creed Bratton wasn’t even a credited actor on The Office before becoming one of the show’s most popular characters.
If you were to ask a fan of The Office US to list their five favorite scenes or jokes, at least two would involve the mercurial Creed Bratton.
Lurking in the background, Dunder Mifflin’s quality assurance manager (but don’t ask him to reveal his job title) has many lives if you’re to believe his stories.
He could be homeless, he could be a rock star in his youth, and he could have killed a man named Creed Bratton. He is a mystery.
What we do know is that he doesn’t know the names of his co-workers, he certainly doesn’t know that “Creed Thoughts” is just a word document rather than a personal blog on the interwebs and that he may have had love for a man in the bacchanic sixties. .
Is it any wonder that Creed has become such a breakthrough character, even in an ensemble of likeable chefs.
Bratton, the guy who plays him and shares his on-screen counterpart’s name, has the same wild background, or at least a version of it. He certainly never killed anyone.
But Bratton isn’t his real name either, it’s William Charles Schneider (he went by Chuck) but decided early on that “Creed Bratton” was much more rock ‘n’ roll.
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The actor and musician will visit Australia later this year with his live show, a mix of performances from his many albums and stories from his life, most notably his time in the iconic American comedy.
The show, which has been postponed multiple times due to the Black Summer wildfires and then the pandemic, will be a distillation of the many lives he lived in his 79 years, including early fame as part of rock band The Grass Roots.
“I was a reluctant rock star,” Bratton told news.com.au. “The Grass Roots tried to be one of the first groups to destroy a hotel room, but my heart wasn’t in it. I threw the TV but looked the other way. I was expected to be like that, but I wasn’t.”
Bratton wasn’t exactly living a healthy life, either. He has been open about his past with drugs and alcohol, and many of his own experiences have made it the backstory of the mysterious Creed.
“I showed all my warts, weaknesses and weaknesses, and in a humorous way of course, because you can’t always show your positive things – that’s not funny sometimes.
“So, I put a lot of myself into that, and the idea was like I’d continued down that dark path with the drugs and all that stuff. But it’s not funny to say, ‘Well, no, I don’t do that anymore, I just work hard’.”
Fans may not remember it now, but Bratton was never meant to be an integral part of The office† He was hired as a backing artist (an extra) to potter scenes and land the gig because he had worked as a stand-in on The Bernie Mac Show with director Ken Kwapis and Kwapis directed the pilot for The office†
“I was there for two years before I realized I was on a TV show,” Bratton recalls. “I thought I was getting paid pretty well, I didn’t want to rock the boat. So I kept quiet, stayed in my chair.”
Bratton knew he wanted to do more, so he auditioned himself for The office producers to expand his character and write dialogues for the on-screen Creed that grew out of his ability to tell a story about his own experiences.
And what was the risk? In those first two seasons, The office was always about to be cancelled.
“I didn’t tell anyone what I was going to do, I wrote that character and shot him with my friend. It might not have worked in any other situation, but on The office it did.
“People should not wait for the opportunity. They should be shooting their own stuff.”
The producers loved what they saw and Bratton became a real character in the second season episode “Halloween”, where he used his cunning ways to manipulate the often hapless Michael Scott (Steve Carell) into firing him.
Working on that scene is still his fondest memory.
“The day after it aired, I sat at the craft service table and walked in.” [John] Krasinski and Rainn Wilson and they saw me and walked over to me. And they’re tall guys – I’m six feet, but they’re taller than me.
“And they almost picked me up, gave me a big hug and said, ‘You knocked him out of the park, buddy.’ I almost cried, it was amazing.”
In a large cast of comedians, you’d expect there to be competition or one-up-manship in who could be the funniest, but Bratton said The Office’s cast was never like that.
“You don’t get involved when you have people who are there for the generality, to add their little piece to the carpet, you know? Insecure people may want to compete, but the people around me all just work together and try not to step on each other’s toes, which is rare.
“In movies, I see people doing things to try to outdo people. We were there to serve. As the musician serves the song, we were there to serve the show.”
He does want to set things straight – despite assumptions The office‘s free-flowing energy was often improvised, the rules being 90 to 95 percent scripted.
“We’ve taken those rules from great writers,” he explained. “We had a great writing staff and to our credit, it came out as if we were just ad libbing stuff. A lot of people thought I was stoned and just said whatever came into my head!”
That blur between the real Bratton and the on-screen Creed happened more than once — not unexpectedly when the two share a name and part of the same weird life history. People often confuse him with the character on the screen.
“Walking through a store and down the product aisle, this woman recognized me and she smiled a little bit with that cracked smile. And then she pulled her child away from me as I walked by.
“I was sad and proud at the same time. The character worked.”
Creed Bratton to tour Australia in September – tickets are now on sale
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