Journeyman actor carves unique niche on show

The line between reality and fiction can get blurred for Creed Bratton, who plays the character of Creed Bratton on “The Office” as “kind of an addled version of myself.”

Like the fictional Creed, the real Bratton is a former guitarist for the 1960s rock band the Grass Roots, but that’s not to say actor and character are one and the same.

“The real Creed is not in jail, for one,” Bratton says. “But there are a lot of similarities. I do speak Chinese; I do have four toes on one foot. Do I steal? Well …”

Though he speaks less than just about any character on “The Office,” perhaps nobody has uttered more memorable lines on the show than Bratton, who plays the shifty charlatan with “a distinct old-man smell” and whose self-described job title at Dunder Mifflin is “quabity ashewitz.”

With dreams of musical stardom, the Yosemite-area native spent his early 20s tramping around Europe playing any gig he could find. It was there that he met two fellow Americans who persuaded him to change his name — Chuck Ertmoed — to something better suited to his musical ambitions.

“They said, ‘Well, let’s give you a new name.’ I said, ‘Great.’ So we wrote all night. I wake up the next morning—obviously I had passed out — and there’s a tablecloth we’d taken from a restaurant. And it had all these names on it crossed out except for one name that was circled, and it said Creed Bratton. I went, ‘Well, that’s the name.’”

The Byrds-esque Grass Roots had top-10 hits with “Let’s Live for Today” and “Midnight Confessions” before Bratton left in 1969, largely to pursue acting. He landed small parts here and there until buddy Ken Kwapis, who was directing “The Office” pilot, cast Bratton as a background character.

Though it wasn’t supposed to be a speaking role, the enterprising Bratton wrote and directed his own talking-head monologue and presented the homemade DVD to showrunner Greg Daniels. By season two, he had his first lines — and now the real Bratton longs for the day when an entire episode will be plotted around Creed. (He is the central figure in the next batch of “Office” webisodes.)

“I’m certainly not complaining,” he says, “but if they choose in their infinite wisdom to give me some more stuff, I would totally love to do that.”

In the meantime, he’ll continue applying rock ‘n’ roll’s lessons to his new job as a TV star.

“I absolutely believe music and acting are linked together,” he says. “When I’m on a roll acting-wise, when the energy’s really pouring, it’s like playing a guitar solo. You have to trust the muse.”

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