Nearly 15 years ago, The Office aired its pilot episode on NBC, effectively helping launch the careers of some of Hollywood's biggest stars today. Even a decade and a half after it first aired, the series continues being a smash hit with fans, finishing as Netflix's most popular licensed show time and time again. To celebrate the milestone anniversary, we spoke with a few of those involved in the show's production, the first of which is Creed Bratton.
Bratton — previously known as one of the earliest members of The Grass Roots prior to his Office fame — plays a character modeled after himself on the show. In fact, as you see below, the actor explains his fictional counterpart a version of Creed Bratton that never left the drug-fueled daze surrounding The Grass Roots and somehow, by the grace of God, found himself stranded in Scranton, Pennsylvania near the offices of paper supply company Dunder-Mifflin.
Keep scrolling to see our complete chat with Bratton. What's your favorite Creed moment? Think it over and let us know your thoughts in the comments below or by hitting me up on Twitter at @AdamBarnhardt!
From Bernie Mac to Dunder-Mifflin
ComicBook.com: We're coming up on the 15th anniversary of The Office. Back in 2004, 2005 when the pilot was filmed, I believe you were doing work on The Bernie Mac Show.
Creed Bratton: That's correct.
How did you manage to find your way from Bernie Mac to a desk at Dunder-Mifflin?
Yes, actually I was working on Bernie Mac at the time. I started out there kind of through a friend, I had been working for a catering company while I was studying acting. I mean, I always studied acting. I was staying in class, right? I was always staying in class because that's what actors do.
But I was working and doing this job and it's getting kind of hard on my back. A friend of mine said they need a guy to do some background once in a while on Bernie Mac as, you know, the token white guy. So I was working on that show and they found out I was physically funny, and I found ways to be in the background and get laughs just by physical comedy.
So Ken Kwapis was on the show, and I amused him, obviously, and he found out that I was in The Grass Roots. I heard that he was directing the pilot and actually the first season for The Office, the American Workplace, and I'd loved the Ricky Gervais' thing.
He'd given me his number, I called him up and said, "You know what? My little voice," and it truly was my intuition, that little inner voice telling me, "You need to get on that show." I've done that all my life. My instincts tell me which direction, which path on the road to go on. And so he said, "Really?" So he talked to Greg, and he trusted Ken that I was interesting. So they put me in the background.
Within a few weeks of working in that, somebody thought I was actually part of the cast. In fact, I was given the lines one time by a first AD in "Diversity Day," and they came up there saying, "No, no, he's not supposed to be speaking." So they paid me anyway, the time.
I wrote the character. I made up this fictitious character based on what would happen if Creed Bratton from The Grass Roots had stayed addled with drugs. I had him ending up passed out in a dumpster in Scranton; Ed Truck found me and gave me a job as a salesman which I was horrible at. I think you could still see my audition tape on BuzzFeed, if you go to Buzzfeed and find my audition tape. It's out there somewhere. So anyway, that's what I did. I shot my own scene, about an hours' worth of stuff, and ad-libbed a bunch of stuff. I sang on it, I pretended I was in the cast, and I was the character working at Dunder-Mifflin, the whole premise of the thing. It was very funny or so they told me, and then I got the shot during the Halloween episode, and the rest as they say, history.
That's awesome. So you bring up that first Halloween episode. You were actually on Jenna [Fischer] and Angela [Kinsey's] podcast not too long ago, right?
Right. I had so much fun.
Shortly after that podcast episode came out, there was some talk on there that they had written two endings for that episode. One in which Creed Bratton was fired and another version, which was on the one that aired.
No, no, no. No, they didn't. They didn't. I think the deal was that actually Devin had booked himself a play back east, so he had to go off to do stage thing. But no, the thing is if I had not, we shoot so much stuff. We shot twice as much as we ever used. Right?
We got a lot of stuff. Now this was a six and a half page scene. This was a big, big scene. So they were hoping I was going to be able to pull it off, but if I hadn't been funny and wasn't making people laugh, then there's no guarantee that I would have stayed on the show.
I had to prove myself. That was it. That was the Rubicon. I was crossing that at that time.
Deleted Scenes and Music
You mention the extra scenes and everything you filmed additionally. Was there a certain sequence you remember that was kind of a peak Creed moment that either got deleted or just didn't make it into the cut?
Oh, absolutely. There was one that was very disappointing [being cut], but it was so long. It was a scene during the Booze Cruise, a deleted scene. And in that deleted scene, you can find it you know, you can go on online and see it. I play lead guitar and I rock the booze cruise with my lead guitar playing, and I talk about my days in The Grass Roots, and so people that saw the lead scene knew that I'd been a rock star in this band through the 60s and early 70s. But now people that hadn't seen the lead scene didn't really know about this fact until the finale, nine seasons later. There are still people coming up and saying, "Oh my God, he was in the Grass Roots." They didn't know.
I think we talked it one other time, when a guy in the room making some coffee or something like this in the little break room there, and this guy, he's there I think he's interviewing somebody for something. He goes, "Hey," he said, "You're Creed Bratton from The Grass Roots." "Yeah, I am." And he said, "But I wrote your obituary."
Absolutely, that's great.
But that was a deleted scene, too. I believe it was, yeah, it had to be because they didn't really talk about it until the finale.
I mean some things that did make it in, I know you played the guitar in the viral video cold open.
And also during that one Christmas episode where we had the karaoke thing. I was singing karaoke, and that song, "Spinnin' N Reelin'," I wrote that song, and so I was actually singing over my own vocals on the records.
That's just something that comes naturally, right? Is that something you pitched to Greg [Daniels] and the team that they were perfectly all right with?
Well they just said to me, "We want you to sing a song. Are you comfortable singing one of your songs?" And I thought yes, of course I am. That's fantastic. They were so gracious to me. They were very supportive of my music all the time through that whole thing, especially in allowing me to sing my song "All the Faces" during the finale.
I had a guitar behind my desk most of the time there. And in between scenes, I would pick it up and walk into the green room and play, or I'd walk around the set playing guitar. I was constantly ... I wrote two albums while I was on that show, in the green room and in my trailer.
And Ed Helms would come in and I'd go to his trailer, he plays a great banjo. We'd jam together all the time, he and I.
The Big Time
You mentioned earlier the soup line, right? This line, it's four or five words, but this one line perfectly sums up how chaotic Creed Bratton the character is. Everyone else is grossed out about the stench and Creed walks in asking who's making soup.
That was one of the first big lines for Creed. That's one of the first ones, and in fact, I heard that from Greg and several other people, they knew with that line that I had the ability to just deliver one line and it'd work.
The first season was only six episodes, so a lot of people were technically background characters. Do you recall the conversation with Greg or whoever it would have been that said, "All right, hey man. You've kind of aced your role. We want you to be a bigger part of this show."
Oh, sure. Sure. It was right at probably around the time that second season after the booze cruise and "Which one's Pam?" and "someone making soup", and all that stuff. I was called into the producer's office and they said, "We're going to have you be a regular guest star on the show now."
And then the third season they were actually going to make me a season regular. It didn't happen. I think they went and gave that to Mindy and Paul, who are writers, and I understood that. But then the fourth season, then I came on as a series regular. But I was doing very well being a guest star every week for the second and third season.
Actually that third season, I was. The same season I came in and then I slowly in increments got pay grades toward the end. And then I started finding out that my character was becoming very popular with the people which was fantastic.
All things considered, TV shows might take a little while to get going, and you had The Office with six episodes. Ratings were kind of down for the first season. With the advent of streaming, The Office has just ballooned into this incredible, huge, binge-worthy monster. Do you recall the moment you realized, "Man, this project is something special. It's something massive."
We were off on Saticoy Studios. We were out in the Valley in this industrial cul-de-sac, basically. Two giant stages. We weren't on a lot where people coming and going, and you hear all the stuff going on. We were in an isolated little bubble of our own, and we got a lot of work done that way, too. You know, you work 12, 14, hours a day. That's the deal. Sometimes more, depending on what we've got to get done. And we were doing like 12 or 20 episodes compared to most people now it's 10, we were doing 23, 24, 25 episodes I think, sometimes. It was insane.
But I think one day we started seeing people outside. You're driving to work, and you're coming through the gate in your car and there are people lined up there waving at you, and then you go, "Oh, what the hell? This is going on?" And then people start coming up to you in markets and stuff and wanting your autograph. Then you go, "Oh my gosh." I hadn't had that happen since The Grass Root days in the 60s. I felt deja vu in a way. It was kind of interesting. It's certainly more popular doing The Office than I was in The Grass Root days, I can tell you that.
I think it just was a gradual thing. I think some of the people recognized it earlier than others. I took it with a grain of salt because I'd been there. I had been there before with a hit band, and the bands come and go all the time. You take your little moment in the sun and you move on. So you're thinking, "Well, we'll see how long this lasts." But at the time nobody had any idea it what was going to become part of the zeitgeists as it has. I mean, to you're right, it absolutely has become that. It's nuts.
The Scranton Strangler
You've probably been asked this a million times, but I've got to ask: is Creed Bratton the Scranton Strangler?
You know, man, when people ask me that question, is there a statute of limitations on murder? No. There is not. So how do I answer that? I feel I really, really shouldn't let much of that go, because I feel like could incriminating myself. Even though I'm not that character, he's very personal and if I give away that, then I lose a little of my mystique.
I mean for God's sakes, he did come in with blood all over him. He obviously had bodies in his fridge. I'm not saying that he was the Scranton Strangler, but he certainly killed people, we know that.
He is a strangler, probably.
He is a strangler. Well, I don't know about a strangler so much as maybe a slasher, because a strangling is pretty clean. Because he had blood all over him, so he might've been more of a slasher. The Scranton Slasher.
Yes, okay. I can get on board with that.
But I don't think that the Toby character had the hueveos to pull that off. I just don't see that. The cojones. Who else? Maybe he could have. Maybe he could have.
We talked about streaming. Peacock's coming out and it's the age of revivals, continuations, and reboot. I mean in-universe, Creed Bratton's kind of in a tricky situation now. But should the opportunity arise, is a reboot or continuation something you'd entertain?
Well, you know what? Obviously as an actor, I love playing with those people, and we were a family. We loved each other. Of course, I would love to do it. I don't see it happening. I just went up a while back and shot this thing called Upload for Greg Daniels up in Vancouver, this sci-fi thing he's doing, and we were talking about it over dinner, and he said they keep approaching him. He's not into it, and if Greg's not into it, I don't think any less else would want to be into it.
I think Krasinski had the best idea. He said we should just shoot a Christmas special if we're going to do it. We get everybody together and shoot the Christmas special for fun. We'd love to do that. I don't see with everybody scheduled the way they are that we could all get together and shoot continuum. I don't think it would work. First, we wouldn't have Steve. We wouldn't have John. We wouldn't have Ed. We wouldn't have Rainn. We'd be missing so many people, integral parts.
Cover photo by Joe Scarnici/FilmMagic