David spoke to hundreds of creative arts students during their graduation ceremony wishing them well and offering some sage advice.
He said: “As a 71-year-old man and a grandfather I look to the young for hope and inspiration. The future is yours. I am touched by the potential that you all have. Today another chapter closes in your young lives, another peak climbed, and maybe in the distance there is another peak to tempt you to challenge yourself.”
Born in 1951 in Liverpool to a Chinese father, a seaman from Canton, and an English mother from Liverpool, David is one of eight children.
After noticing that many Asians featuring in television and film were villains, criminals or martials arts experts David sought out roles that didn’t play into serotypes, this best exemplified by his role as Detective Sergeant John Ho in The Chinese Detective for the BBC.
Speaking about his ground-breaking role he said: “The first parts I got offered in TV were all very stereotypical, but I was a young actor and I didn’t know any better. And then along came The Chinese Detective which was incredible. It was the first time we’d ever seen a British East Asian have the lead part, and in a police series no less.
“It had an incredible impact in this country. What I loved about it is that the racism was up front, the villains often said racist things to John Ho but he just batted it away.”
An accomplished and versatile actor, David has worked with stars of the film, television and theatre industry including Steven Spielberg and Sir Kenneth Brannagh.
He trained at E15 Acting School, London from 1971 to 1973 and since then for over forty years he has enjoyed an extensive career, working in film, television, theatre, and radio both in the UK and internationally.
He said: “I have always said that I fell into acting as though in a dream.
“In 1971, I found myself at the challenging and inspiring E15 Acting School to start my training as an actor.
“And after almost 50 years as a professional actor, I know that I continue to learn from job to job in order to be the actor I want to be.
“I still feel like I am in a dream, more so because I know that people actually pay me to do what I do. I have had a wonderful career with many highs and very few lows.”
David’s own dramatic work as a writer and director, the highlight of which is the multimedia theatre piece Gold Mountain, has its roots in his experience of growing up in Liverpool. He has also written and presented six documentaries about the Liverpool Chinese community, drawing heavily on his background, and the maritime and cultural sea faring journeys his father undertook.
David’s film credits include roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, A View to a Kill, Entrapment and Hamlet directed by Kenneth Branagh. Television work has included roles in Brookside, Holby City, Casualty and Dr Who. His recent theatre work includes Yellow Face at the National Theatre on the South Bank, London, which explores issues in screen representation for the Chinese community.