Creed Bratton Dishes On Life During and After ‘The Office,’ Playing With The Grass Roots, And His Solo Tour
GALO: Did you face any egos or big personalities on the set of The Office? And did you carry over that mentality of working with a band when you arrived on the show?
CB: People always ask what I like to do more and I say that I like to do them both. When you’re working with players like Steve [Carell], Rainn [Wilson], Ed [Helms], Oscar [Nunez], or Brian [Baumgartner], you start jamming. You’re jamming the lines and the emotions that sound effortless and not contrived. That’s the magic, and when it happens, it is a good thing.
GALO: Maybe not initially, but looking back, there are just so many big names that have moved on to bigger projects like yourself that you can’t believe they were all on the show at the same time and for so long.
CB: Oh, yeah. They are all doing big things. I just recently did a show with Angela Kinsey or Angela from The Office. I think I call her Andrea in one episode of the show and say that she’s the office bitch.
GALO: Oh, I remember that line in the show.
CB: Ha! But really, Angela is the sweetest person. We shot this little thing where I got to play a character called “crazy cowboy,” and that was so much fun. I still see people regularly. I still talk to Craig Robinson and Rainn [Wilson]. Of course, I still talk with Angela [Kinsey] and Oscar [Nunez].
GALO: You mentioned it briefly at the beginning, but what was it like being a part of this show that was so massively popular? Was it at any point tough for you?
CB: People ask that all the time and I could get upset and say, “What do you do?” But you’re there and part of it. You have to understand, we were there and [we] were in a bubble. We shot the first six episodes in an actual office and then the second season on, we used a sound stage. It was way out in the Valley, away from CBS and Universal. When we came in, we just lived there. And for the first couple years, we didn’t exactly realize the effect it was having on people. It took a couple of seasons until people started going, “wow, this is really happening.” By then, everybody just got into the groove, and I know I just went to work every day feeling so happy and so lucky.
I didn’t see a lot of egos really. I saw everyone getting along like a family, you know?
GALO: I remember those first few seasons and the fear that the show would go off the air because people were watching other stuff for some reason.
CB: Well, Greg Daniels said during the very first season, when we were sitting outside, that “we’re not going to do a stupid show, folks. We’re going to have long embarrassing pauses where people just stew in their own juices. We’re not going to have a laugh track.” Someone was like, “what?” Because that is what they did on TV before us, they had laugh tracks. We weren’t going to do that.
We almost got cancelled that first season, and luckily, they gave us another chance so we could find our audience during the second season. That’s when we took off. It was tough going, off and on, after Steve [Carell] left the show. But still, we kept going, and I think there is some funny stuff going on even after he left. At least compared to other stuff on TV, I thought it was great. Of course, the magic was with Steve, there’s no doubt about it.
GALO: That was definitely a big turning point for the series because he was the crux of the whole thing, and then he left and it was like you had to reestablish your identity without the face of the show.
CB: We still kept an audience. We didn’t keep the big audience that we had at the beginning, but we kept enough for us to keep going that long. Maybe we could’ve stopped sooner, but I had no complaints since I was working and was happy. I laughed every time I saw something funny that Creed was going to say. We still laughed sometimes till the end. In the beginning, we were just howling.
GALO: Now, since this character of yours was initially developed by you, what was it like helping him grow on the show?
CB: Well, since I wrote him and presented him to the showrunners, the idea was that if my character Creed Bratton with The Grass Roots had stayed drinking and doing drugs and all this stuff… Basically what happened is he passed out and had a blackout period before landing on a bus and was found in a dumpster in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Ed Truck brings him into the company and gives him a job as a salesman. I did a lot of it in the audition tape. From that moment on, the writers just took off with him. They took that basic premise and put it far beyond where I was going with it.
GALO: I guess that’s my question. Was this improv or did you have lines being given to you?
CB: No, about 90 percent of our stuff was scripted. People used to think I would go to work high and just babble anything I wanted. That’s not the case. Everything was scripted. When we got through shooting the script, they would allow us to do one for fun and we would mess around with it. A lot of people would [improv]. Ed [Helms] would improv a lot. Zach Woods was just brilliant at it. And look at Zach now! He’s on Silicon Valley.
GALO: Yeah, it seems like there are just so many faces in comedy that have cycled through The Office. It is crazy.
CB: I mean, yeah. Think of the people that we had on that show: James Spader, Kathy Bates, Idris Elba, Timothy Olyphant, and Will Ferrell were there. It was nuts. And they wanted to be on the show. They asked us.
GALO: That’s amazing. At that point, the tables were turning for you guys.
CB: I was kind of intimidated when James Spader walked up and started doing his thing. But you learn a lot. I learned a lot as an actor while watching him and how he handles himself. You go, “oh, I see. If you get in a bind, you can do that. That’s clever.” Things like if something isn’t going the way you want, you can stop and do it again. You can always do it over, you don’t have to do it right every single time. It is so demanding on you because these people are so relaxed and having fun.
GALO: Definitely, I feel like going on set and seeing Will Ferrell there had to be somewhat intimidating because he is such a presence as an actor and comedian.
CB: We were all so excited when he was there. It was fun. Steve was there, too, so he would make us feel at ease because he was at ease with these people.
GALO: What was your experience like after the show ended? You’ve appeared in stuff since, but do you feel like they’re bringing you in to play a variation of Creed from The Office?
CB: I thought about that for a while when I was talking to my agent. I was saying that I didn’t want to go right away and do things. I think about two years before we wrapped, I did a movie called Terri with John C. Reilly. It was a totally different character — very serious and heartfelt — and I gained some notice from it, even a few accolades. So now I’m thinking that I wanted to do stuff like [Terri], but then I was asked to play crazy old coots like Creed that were even a little weirder. Then I thought about it and realized that it doesn’t matter. If they want me to do something like Creed, [then] that’s fine. I’ll always keep my eye out for serious stuff with a little meat in it, [though].
I’m a character actor and I just want to do all that stuff. And maybe it is tough to break out of something like that, a famous character like Michael Richards’ Kramer on Seinfeld. I don’t know if he can ever break out of that role. I think I have more [of a] chance, and I don’t know why I say that, but I just think maybe [it stems from] Kramer being iconic compared to Creed, who is more of a cult character. I have a following, but it is a cult-like following.
I’ve been doing lots of little bits. I just played a bad guy on Band of Robbers, which played at the Los Angeles Film Festival. I think it turned out to be a good movie. It wasn’t a huge part, but I read the script and wanted to be a part of it because I really liked the script. So things like that — I do my music and keep an eye out for a part that can get me more stuff to do. That’s all an actor can ask for, really.
GALO: I’m sure you would love to have another Office come around, but that seems to be an once-in-a-lifetime show that won’t be replicated for a while.
CB: I don’t think there is ever going to be another Office. There will be another character that I can have some fun with and make people laugh. I definitely have that in me. Maybe [I have] 20 years left before I’ll hang up my spurs and drift off into the sunset.
GALO: Maybe that could be your next character, someone fit for a Western.
CB: I grew up on a farm that had a horse, and [there was] a rodeo in the town I grew up in, so I have that part [in] me. I can drift right into the [Western] voice if I want to — that’s what the people talked like who I hung around as a kid.
GALO: Now, you said that there will never be another Office. Do you mean as a television show or just as an experience in your life?
CB: Oh, there will definitely be more brilliant shows coming up. There have to be. But I don’t think for an experience, there can be something like it. That was just lightning in a bottle. For all of us to be together at that time, you’ll never be able to get that many guys and ladies together who have that synergy together.
We hoped that it would happen, but the odds were low that it would happen again. I hear from people all the time (and we took it for granted because we were in the show) that say they watch the episodes over and over again and they still make [them] laugh. That is pretty cool.
GALO: Oh, I would definitely be in that pool. I can watch episode after episode and still roll on the floor laughing because it is some of the funniest stuff I have ever seen.
CB: I was on a plane once, on a United [Airlines] one, and they played The Office. It was the episode “Casino Night,” and I just sat down and was howling. I looked around and it was so embarrassing. I’m [sitting there] laughing at myself and Steve and Rainn. It’s a funny episode.
GALO: With these projects you’re doing now, are you trying to develop a new audience following The Office‘s run?
CB: I’m just trying to work — I have [some] shows that I am writing with different writers and [that] I’m trying to get greenlit. I play a [variety] of the Creed character. But as far as working, I just did Grace And Frankie on Netflix with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. I played a straight character with nothing to it. It’s just work and keeping [it going] out there. I did Comedy Bang! Bang! And it is just work. It isn’t the Creed character. It is something else.
GALO: And what kind of people come out to your music shows — are there a lot of The Office or The Grassroots fans present?
CB: A whole bunch of people come. I mean, a lot of them come after seeing me on The Office. But the Baby Boomers will know The Grass Roots songs, and maybe I’ll slip in “Midnight Confessions.” I think that music for our [group] is not that I have a message. I may or may not have one. It is more: will they listen to the song? Will it take them away? Can they reflect on their own life? Can they see something that, hopefully, will affect them positively or just entertain them? You can’t be too precious about this stuff. It is just songs — pop songs.
I have pop songs that affect me powerfully. They change me. You always go for that, but you can’t be pretentious and say that the songs are so heavy. I just sing up there and I tell people what it is about. I hope they can get something out of it, and if I tell them what the song is about, it may affect their experience.
Video courtesy of Creed Bratton.
Creed Bratton is currently touring nationwide with his next stop being Los Angeles, CA. For a full list of his tour dates, please visit his official Web site. For the latest updates on his endeavors, you can also follow Bratton on Twitter @CreedBratton.