Some may not realize this, but character Creed Bratton — the quirky quality assurance manager of Dunder Mifflin — is a fictionalized version of the real-life actor and musician, Creed Bratton. Their backstories are very similar: They were both members of the rock band The Grass Roots in the 1960s; both used drugs; both had a lot of crazy stories from the 1960s, and both may or may not have had a relationship with Squeaky Fromme, a member of the Manson family who once tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. The Grass Roots actually had a big top-ten hit back in 1967 that may sound familiar to some.
It’s in the present time, however, where Creed the actor and Creed the character begin to depart. Creed Bratton the character was basically a homeless man who walked into Dunder Mifflin one day, acted like he worked there, and somehow fell into the role of quality assurance manager. Creed Bratton, the real-life person, was basically a struggling out-of-work actor (working as a stand-in on sitcoms), who was hired to play a background actor (a guy who filled a desk in the back of Dunder Mifflin’s office) and stuck around so long that he fell into a the role of a beloved series regular. The director of The Office pilot, Ken Kwapis, met Bratton when he was working as a stand-in on The Bernie Mac Show. Kwapis overhead Bratton talking about learning a guitar lick from Jimi Hendrix, and Bratton and Kwapis became friends. A few years later, Kwapis hired him to come in and sit on a desk in the background for the pilot episode of The Office. The rest is history, sort of.
Months after the pilot was shot, Kwapis brought Creed back again for the second episode, which he also directed. Creed was one of only two regular background actors on The Office, along with an actor named Devon Abner, who played a character named Devon White. Though he was a frequent background presence in the first season and a half, most viewers of The Office may only recognize Devon White for his role in only one episode, the Halloween episode in season two where Michael Scott fired him while Devon was in costume.
The reality, however, is that it could have been Creed who was fired instead, according to Andy Greene’s book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s. Larry Wilmore (then a writer on The Office) came up with the idea of Michael Scott firing someone in their Halloween costume, because he thought it would be funny, and the choice of who to fire was between two non-speaking characters, Devon White and Creed Bratton.
Greg Daniels essentially told Devon Abner and Bratton that the good news was that one of them would get a line in the show. The bad news is, the person who got a line would be fired, while the person who didn’t get a line would get to stick around. Thankfully, Devon Abner — who had been cast in a play in New York — took away the decision and bowed out, leaving Creed with the continuing gig. The script, of course, ended up changing, and both Bratton and Abner got several lines, as each tried to talk Michael Scott out of firing them.
Creed won out, and gave a terrific performance in his first speaking role. In fact, the day after filming his scene, John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson came up to him, gave him a huge hug, and told Creed that he “killed it.” Bratton was so touched that he “had to walk away and cry a little bit.” Devon Abner, however, had no hard feelings. In fact, it was just the opposite: “When people ask me about The Office, I always think about how happy I am for all of those guys, but especially Creed. I have always been happy for him, because he is such a great guy.”
From there, the writers ended up giving Creed one or two lines in every episode, he eventually became a fan favorite, and then the rest is history. Devon Abner, meanwhile, ended up coming back again for The Office finale to replace Creed, who faked his own death to avoid the police.