Photo credit: Sarah Lam
Actor David Yip in conversation with Pamela Kember
Tuesday 2 February, 18.45 – 20.00
“There comes a point when you have to stop waiting for something to change, or for someone else to create the role for you. There comes a point when you have to take responsibility for what you want to say and how you say it.” David Yip, 2015
Although he never had any big ambitions to be an actor initially, David Yip went on to become a well-loved household name for his lead in the British TV series The Chinese Detective (1981-82). This was the first time a British-Chinese actor was given a major role in a television drama series, rather than the usual typecast as had been the case for many Chinese actors before.
He will be talking about his childhood and background, his early years of growing up in Liverpool in the British-Chinese community there, his break into acting and his views on the lack of opportunities for Chinese actors in the British TV and theatre industry.
Born in Liverpool, one of eight children, David’s father was one of a great number of Chinese sea merchants from Southern China and Hong Kong who were deployed in the shipping industry during the two World Wars. His mother was English and from Liverpool. David trained at E15 Acting School, London in 1973 and since The Chinese Detective went on to star in feature films including Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), James Bond: A View to Kill (1985) and the highly acclaimed British-Chinese comedy Ping Pong (1986), directed by Po Chi Leong. He has also produced a large body of work for the theatre over the years, including writing and performing in Golden Mountain, which was a tribute to his father and produced by Les Deaux Mondes in Montreal and Unity Theatre in Liverpool (2010).
Last year, David starred as Commissar Zhang in BBC Radio 4’s three-part drama Inspector Chen based on Qiu Xiaolong’s series. The mystery novels which are set in Shanghai feature the poet and translator-turned-detective Chen Cao sent on assignments that bring political scrutiny with every move.
This year, David has starred in BBC Radio 4 drama East of Eden, as the Narrator. The series is a dramatisation of American novelist John Steinbeck’s book of the same title. There are three episodes now available to listen on the BBC Radio 4 website here.
Watch David in action in The Chinese Detective in this clip from 1981.