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Michael Yarish, CBS
Raquel Welch stars as Charlene Van Ark and Fran Kranz as Josh Flug in the new CBS comedy "Welcome to the Captain."

Nobody is less surprised that Raquel Welch's latest role casts her as sort of a sexpot/femme fatale than Welch herself. And she has absolutely no complaint about being cast in that kind of a role in the new CBS comedy "Welcome to the Captain."

"It would be too late for me to say no," Welch said with a laugh.

Her career dates back to 1964 when she played — surprise! — a call girl in the film "A House Is Not a Home." Her career took off a couple of years later when she wore skimpy outfits in "Fantastic Voyage" and "One Million Years B.C."

It's not like Welch never played a nun — it's just that she played a nun in the 1970 movie "Bluebeard" opposite Richard Burton.

"I gave up my habit for Richard Burton. My nun had some rather libidinous leanings," she said in a conference call with TV critics. "She was kind of a sexpot underneath."

In "Welcome," which premieres Monday at 7:30 p.m. on Ch. 2, Welch stars as sexpot Charlene Van Ark, a faded actress whose career peaked when she was on a prime-time soap opera — either "Knots Landing" or "Falcon Crest," nobody can remember which — back in the 1980s. And she still harbors hopes of reviving her career.

In real life, Welch is, as hard as it might be to believe, 67. She looks fantastic, and she hasn't given much thought to the fact that she's a woman in her 60s playing a woman in her 50s pretending to be a woman in her 40s.

"Well, no, not particularly, because I'm used to being me," Welch said.

And she's used to playing roles like Charlene.

"I could see myself in this character," Welch said. "I could see that I could play this character and people would believe it because of my previous career, I suppose, as a glamor puss."

She's lampooning that persona just a bit in "Welcome to the Captain."

"I haven't done anything like this in quite a long time," Welch said. "And I think it's a good chance for me to have a bit of fun with my image."

"Welcome" is about an eclectic group of characters who live in a fable old Hollywood apartment building — El Capitan, nicknamed The Captain. Josh (Fran Kranz), a former whiz-kid screenwriter whose career is on the skids, is about to leave Los Angeles and head back to New York when his best friend/accountant, Marty (Chris Klein), convinces him to move into the building.

There he meets Uncle Saul (Jeffrey Tambor), a writer whose career peaked 30 years ago with "Three's Company"; Jesus (Al Madrigal), the gossipy doorman; Astrid (Valerie Azlynn), an aspiring actress; an aspiring acupuncturist, Hope (Joanna Garcia), who makes his heart beat faster; and, of course, Charlene.

And on his first night at El Capitan, Josh finds himself, um, lured into Charlene's clutches.

For all of Charlene's over-the-top sexiness and man-hunting persona, Welch sees her as being rather "vulnerable."

"She has these certain expectations in life and reality never occurs to her. In other words, it just doesn't seem to her that her expectation of refurbishing her career, of having these very young lovers — they don't seem unrealistic to her. And I think that's kind of nice in a way. She really doesn't get it," Welch said with a laugh. "She's living in a fantasy world. And I think that that's her way of protecting herself from the cruel realities of the real world."

Welch herself never lived in a building like the El Capitan.

"When I came out to Hollywood this time, I had the extra added joy of having two small children with me. And most of the nicer buildings wouldn't even take anybody with children," she said.

A few years later, while she was making the movie "Myra Breckinridge," she had "the privilege" of being invited to tea by her co-star, Mae West, at her penthouse in the "lavish and elegant" Ravenswood apartment building.

"She was quite elderly at that time. I think she was about 77 when we made 'Myra Breckenridge,' and yet at 1 o'clock in the afternoon for tea she was still dolled to the max. It was quite something, because she had exactly the same persona in the privacy of her own apartment that she had in 'Diamond Lil.' So I was quite floored," Welch said.

"So that was my one and very memorable experience with a fabulous apartment building like that."


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