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The Office's Most Interesting Character Is Also The Series' Most Enduring Enigma

Most of the characters on "The Office" were fairly easy to peg after the first couple of seasons, while the actors who played them have evolved far beyond the DunderMifflinites they portrayed in the years since. Steve Carell went from familiar-ish face to movie megastar before leaving after Season 7, and John Krasinski's name is in large print on the posters for "Jack Ryan" and two "A Quiet Place" movies. Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer turned the friendship they formed on the show into a successful recap podcast called "Office Ladies," and Mindy Kaling has gone on to produce hits like "The Mindy Project" and "Never Have I Ever." She, Paul Lieberstein, and B.J. Novak all also served as writers on "The Office," and Rainn Wilson has played everyone from Gargamel in "Smurfs: The Lost Village" to shady car salesman Devoted Dan on "Dark Winds" since "The Office" ended.

But of all the remarkable multi-faceted human beings who filled out the cast of "The Office," there is one individual who stands alone as the most unpredictable and outrageously hilarious character on the show. This says a lot in a universe populated by similarly unusual and quirky characters.

Creed Bratton was a famous musician before landing his part on The Office

While many of the actors on "The Office" are now well-known Hollywood fixtures, Creed Bratton, who played a heavily fictionalized version of himself, was one of the few who brought any fame to the show's first season. Bratton (lower right, as pictured above) was a founding member of the 1960s psychedelic rock band the Grass Roots before leaving after a clash with their record label over songwriting privileges. In typical Creed fashion, the path that got him to fame as a musician was a twisted and previously untrod one. 

Bratton told AM New York that after graduating from Sacramento State College he headed to Europe with guitar in hand and eventually joined a band called The Young Californians. His big moment came, as they often do, disguised as a small one when he was playing a multi-band gig in Israel. "It was at that festival where I met [Grass Roots bandmate] Warren Entner, and he told me 'If you're ever in L.A., call me,' Bratton said. "When I got back out to L.A. for the first time since I had left, I called him up and we created The 13th Floor." 

That band became the Grass Roots, and Bratton was with them for their two biggest hits, "Let's Live for Today" and "Midnight Confessions." After he left in 1969, Bratton didn't record again for more than three decades, but he has released seven solo albums since 2001.

Creed almost didn't make it past the second season of The Office

Despite their comedic and musical talents, both Creed Brattons almost got fired 11 episodes into "The Office." In Season 2, Episode 5, "Halloween," one of the plot threads follows Michael's inability to choose between letting Creed or Devon (Devon Abner) go. According to Bratton, this reflected showrunner Greg Daniels' real-life dilemma. On an episode of the "Office Ladies" podcast, Bratton said at the 9:40 mark, "They told us, 'One of you guys are gonna have to go, but we don't know yet. We're just gonna shoot you both and see how it works out.'" Bratton was ultimately spared, and "The Office" was better and weirder for it.

Where Creed Bratton the character probably would have taken this opportunity to steal Devon's identity, the real-life Bratton asked Daniels to bring Abner back for the epic series finale of "The Office." Daniels chose to have Bratton sing "All The Faces" as the soundtrack to the emotional last few minutes of the series, with characters reflecting on their lives over the past nine years. Creed is given one of the last and longest monologues, and the picture he paints for his character is quite similar to his own path to the role.

In his final talking head, he says, "It all seems so very arbitrary. I applied for a job at this company because they were hiring. I took a desk at the back because it was empty, but no matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home."  

The answer to the biggest mystery of The Office is Creed Bratton

Creed is then hauled off by two policemen for unspecified but widely speculated upon crimes. While strong cases have been made for Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein) or Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) as the Scranton Strangler, Bratton seems to not only be a likely suspect but a willing one. In a BuzzFeed Q&A, Bratton — blurring his real self with his character as he often does — recalled sitting in on the Strangler's trial covered in blood without being discovered. "No one even noticed me," he said. "No one saw me there. No one even paid attention. They got the wrong guy." He was then asked point blank if he was the Scranton Strangler before staring silently for six full seconds and saying, "Next question, please." He's a little less subtle in a more recent TikTok video, where he all but admits he is the infamous killer. 

There's plenty of evidence in the show pointing to Creed as well. In Season 6, Episode 10, "Murder," he wanders in late to a crowded conference room and asks Michael, who is coordinating a murder mystery role-playing game, what's going on. In his game character, Michael tells him, "There has been a murder, and you are a suspect," and Creed immediately sprints out of the building and drives away. Michael also deems a PC power cord as the perfect gift for Creed one Christmas, and Bratton shows up at the office inexplicably covered in blood one day and only escapes suspicion because it is, coincidentally, Halloween.

Creed has multiple identities and a fake passport

Creed Bratton the actor delivers the moments of distilled weirdness that push "The Office" to its limits, including such epic conference room moments as 'strike, scream, and run" and "Who's your worm guy?" While his character on "The Office" is almost completely unhinged and very unpredictable, the actor is a gentle, thoughtful, reflective soul. He was born William Charles "Chuck" Schneider and went by the name Chuck Ertmoed after his widowed mother remarried. Teased in high school because of his stepfather's last name, the would-be Grass Roots member took the name Creed Bratton during his time in Europe, as he recalled to The New York Times' ArtsBeat blog in 2010. "The Office" writers even used his name change for a joke about Creed's multiple identities, and Bratton used his real passport for the gag. 

But while his passport bears his birth name, his driver's license reads Creed Bratton. In an episode of "Off the Beat with Brian Baumgartner," he said at the 7:30 mark that this was mostly due to the hassle of changing the name on his passport, but then added, "it goes back and forth. I've been running from the law for years. That's not a joke." His character is an embellished and greatly creepified version of the actor, building on his real backstory filled with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. 

Creed Bratton remains active as a musician and part of The Office world

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Creed Bratton said, "Greg [Daniels] decided that since I had been in The Grass Roots and was a rock star, it was obvious that I'd be burned out. In reality, I'm not burned out — I've actually kept myself pretty healthy through the years — but I can play that really well. So we just went from there, and the next thing you know, I've got four toes and I grew up in an iron lung."

During his appearance on "Off the Beat with Brian Baumgartner," Bratton compared his character to a cracked tuning fork and cited Jacque Tati, Charlie Chaplin, Jack Benny, and Bob Newhart as his comedic models before admitting that there was some distance between the real Creed Bratton and the character on "The Office." He told his former co-star at around 30:30, "He's an extension of this rock and roll guy, but, I mean, I would be worn out if i had to be him all the time."

His appearances on "Office Ladies" and Baumgartner's podcast have offered fans of "The Office" a deep, clear look at the man behind the weirdo sitting against the back wall. Bratton wrote and performed the theme songs for both podcasts, and even joined Devo on stage for a New York show this past spring. "The Office" continues to enjoy well-earned popularity more than nine years after the last episode aired, and Creed's fascinating story rambles forward toward its eighth decade at the time of writing.