Creed Bratton Dishes On Life During and After ‘The Office,’ Playing With The Grass Roots, And His Solo Tour
If you were a fan of the NBC comedy The Office, you know Creed Bratton: odd, distant, and peculiar. He was a supporting staple of the show for the entirety of its run, making you have fits — fits of laughter that is. But that isn’t the real Creed Bratton, or at least not totally.
While comedy and eccentricity certainly play a role in his life (much like what you remember of his character), Bratton, who is also known as William Charles Schneider, is a humble, bright and fascinating individual, one who is not afraid of taking chances and “making things happen.” Beginning his journey in the entertainment industry as a member of The Grass Roots, the real Bratton found his bliss in music before moving on to pursue other interests on a slightly different type of stage. Trading in the legions of screaming fans and the bright lights that shone down on him for camera lights and tight packed studios (or, well, one particularly tight office space…), Bratton would soon become a cult-classic character with the entrance of The Office and the fame and recognition that came right along with it.
Fast forward to the present day, and Bratton admits that though the show has been over for two years now, it still plays a significant role in his life through the lessons and experiences that were shared by him and the cast and crew. In fact, he still keeps in touch with many of his former casttmates, and says that certain episodes still make him bowl over with laughter (we can’t say we blame him there). And what might be even more bittersweet, Bratton, who is currently doing a solo tour around the States, frequently performs “All the Faces” from the season finale. “I still can make people tear up with that one in live performances. It is a really good song,” he says.
GALO caught up with Bratton to talk about life during and after The Office, whether or not there could be another show like it, playing with The Grass Roots, and his current musical aspirations.
GALO: I’m excited to talk with you. I was a big fan of The Office and of your character, but I’m going to try and interview you as Creed Bratton the person and not Creed Bratton the character on the show.
Creed Bratton: Oh, that’s fine. I have to say, people do confuse the Creed character with the person. They start thinking that’s who you are. During the second or third season [of The Office], I would be walking around a health food store and someone would notice me and they would pull their kid over or something. I was like, “oh, come on. You’ve gotta be kidding me.” But then I thought it was a compliment because that meant the character really worked.
GALO: It is still cool when they recognize you, because early on in the show some of those characters like Creed were hidden in the back, so the audience didn’t get to know them as actual characters but rather like faces in the crowd.
CB: It was a slow reveal, wasn’t it? And I think there’s a beauty in that. But, you know, I wrote that character out. Do you know the full story?
GALO: No, I’m curious to hear.
CB: I was working on The Bernie Mac Show. My friend Joel Moore got me a job to just sit in as a stand-in, actually, because I did every kind of work. I studied acting. Ken Kwapis, the director of this episode, came in, and this was one where I was given a little bit to do. He was a big Grass Roots fan and we started talking, which is where I learned that he was shooting The Office, based on the Ricky Gervais [show]. So I called him and he said, “Well, I don’t know, Creed. You’re really interested, but we already cast everything.” We also talked to Greg Daniels, [one of the showrunners].
He called me back within a day and said that he talked to [Daniels], told him about me and [that] he’d like to bring me into the background. He said, “We can’t promise you anything, but we can do what we can and try to get you into the mix.” Now that means I could just stay there as a background actor and wouldn’t be noticed. Within two weeks there, I saw all these talented people like John [Krasinski], Jenna [Fischer], Steve [Carell], Rainn [Wilson], and Oscar [Nunez]. These were really sharp actors. So, I wrote a character (the audition is now available online), and shot it and gave it to Ken [Kwapis], who gave it to Greg Daniels. Next thing I know, they throw a script on my desk and say, “OK, you have [a] six and a half page scene with Steve Carell coming up in the second or third episode of season two.” And that was it. Boom! I was off and running.
GALO: That’s crazy.
CB: It is crazy, but I talk to actors all the time and I say, “Listen, you don’t wait around for things to happen. Make things happen. Find your strengths and shoot something up with your strengths, or if you have weaknesses, shoot the idea using your weaknesses. You’re an actor, use it.” I’m quite proud of that.
GALO: You should be. The great thing about this show is that you see someone from The Office just about everywhere now. I went to the movie theater recently to see Inside Out and there were Phyllis Smith and Mindy Kaling’s voices. It is cool to see everyone turning up in different shows or movies and being different from Creed or Phyllis or Oscar. It is a testament to the show.
CB: I don’t think there is any other show right now — maybe I’m wrong. But it seems to me that the cast of The Office is just all over the place now. It is really great. It just showed how much of a strong cast we had. And, of course, the writers — without them, we would have nothing. So, that is a fact. We wouldn’t have anything to do if we didn’t have people giving us the lines or the stories.
GALO: The writers are showing up in tons of places also! Everyone involved is starting to break away from the show and they’re doing different things. They’ve been going on to bigger and better things after the show ended.
CB: Ellie Kemper has a show, too! She has Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. Her sister, Carrie, is on Silicon Valley as a writer and producer. Paul Feig, who directed me in so many of those Creed episodes, is now doing big movies like Bridesmaids and The Heat. He’s doing all kinds of huge movies now.
GALO: Yeah, he’s doing the Ghostbusters movie next. That’s pretty big.
CB: Yes, an Office director on that movie!
GALO: Now what about your life pre-Office, what were the origins of The Grass Roots and what drew you into music at that point in your life?
CB: I played trumpet from when they could hand you an instrument in grammar school. I was given the trumpet. I played in bands that were classical, marching, traditional, and all the songs that the bands were doing in high school. But when I was 13, my grandfather showed me some chords on the guitar. He played guitar, my grandmother played drums, my mother played mandolin. I just thought everyone played music, and then one day, I realized that wasn’t true. It was just a gift that some people had. I started playing with different bands up in the mountains when I was 17. I started working professionally and making money at this place called “The Falls.” I played part-time all the way through college in order to make money during the weekends. I always had a little band together in order to keep things going.
When I got out of college, I spent a little over two years in Europe and played all over the Middle East and Africa as well as Scandinavia and Britain. When I was in Israel, playing with The Young Californians, this guy named Warren Entner, who I still see even today (we’re still friends after all these years), came up to me and said, “would you give me your number? You play good guitar. Here’s my number, too. Maybe we could put a band together.” He had just graduated from UCLA.
When I got back, I called him. And within one week, we had a gig for some friends. Within a year of playing around, we had become The Grass Roots, which is a long story for another time. But that is how we became The Grass Roots, and I played four albums with them. I left in late 1969, early 1970, and struggled for years doing different movies and working with a lot of different bands that just didn’t take off. Until, of course, my role on The Office. And now, after that, I’m touring around again. I’m doing my solo act, [where] I play my original songs and do some Grass Roots songs and tell some, hopefully, humorous anecdotes in-between. It is kind of like a musical Mark Twain.
GALO: Is this type of act, your solo performances, something you’ve always wanted to do, or do you miss a bigger scene like the one you encountered with The Grass Roots?
CB: The stuff I’m doing now is really rewarding for me because I get to be myself. I got to do some music stuff on The Office, but not too much. There’s one scene from the “Booze Cruise” episode that was deleted. They actually shot it with me playing the guitar with flashbacks to [my past]. They actually had me as the guy from The Grass Roots, a bona fide rock star that was working at a paper company! They thought it was so funny, but sadly, the scene was too long. I always thought, ‘I wish I could do more music on the show.’ And then, of course, they came around and completely came through on the finale when I did “All the Faces.” I still can make people tear up with that one in live performances. It is a really good song.
GALO: What about when it comes to albums, do you prefer having the studio all to yourself?
CB: I’ve done six [solo albums]. Solo albums are just what I write for myself. I don’t have to sing them because I’m the one who writes them. There is something very satisfying about running around in a band and finding a song to play on stage, feeling it gel [together] and work on top of the energy of everyone putting it together and then recording it. That is really exciting. When I go in with my producer Dave Way, we bring in guys that I put together originally. People who I say, “let’s have him and him or whatever.” We call ourselves The Rubber Men and we get together and I write all the songs — we just start playing around with it. After a short period of time, we have a sound.
It isn’t like being on the road part of the year and working out songs and then recording them. It is a different procedure. It is more professional. It is fast. We record everything so fast. I do my album in two weeks compared to some bands that do it over a year or more to make an album.
GALO: That almost compares to the makings of a TV show. You are expected to come in and make 20 plus episodes over the course of a few months. That’s a tight schedule.
CB: Well, we used to just fly. Here’s the song and boom! But we all know what we’re doing and can get in there and bam, the song is done. I’m quite proud of the work. The last two albums, Bounce Back and Tell Me About It, have really good songs on [them]. I get a lot of pleasure out of it. If I were in a situation where somebody wanted me to join… Maybe I’m getting a little old for it. I’m like those older cats and what they do. Something of that [performance], though, cats that I really like that have original songs and are singers, I would do that. It would be fun — as long as we got along well.
Bands are tricky. The older you get, the more chances you have to get along. Younger guys have egos and all that stuff.