DAVID Yip may have been television's The Chinese Detective, but he has only visited the mainland once - briefly in 1978. His father left Canton at the age of 16, but Yip cannot remember which part of the province his father hails from - although he hopes to discover some family ties before shooting finishes on Goodbye Hongkong. As Yip's mother was a Liverpudlian, he grew up speaking English at home. In Hongkong, he spends his time telling confused waiters he can't speak the lingo. ''I can appreciate my character in Goodbye Hongkong because I am Chinese but grew up experiencing another culture,'' he said. ''This movie gives me a wonderful chance to express this duality.'' Yip has some dialogue in Cantonese in the film, and aims to overcome this through mimicry. ''If someone puts it on tape, I can copy them,'' he said. ''But it's not desirable because I can't get the nuances. I'm going to try to learn the language while I'm here.'' The actor, who trained in theatre, has spent most of his career avoiding being typecast - arguing a Chinese actor can play any role, and that parts need not be tailor-made along ethnic lines. But he has just finished shooting a comedy for the BBC in which he plays a Hongkong native with a strong London accent. Every Silver Lining was produced by Richard Boden of Blackadder fame, and centres round a Jewish couple and their diner in the East End of London. Yip plays a neighbour who becomes part of the family. His honeyed tones quickly become contorted into a vowel-strangling East End Kowlooner as he rattles off a few lines. ''We're all very happy with the result,'' he said. ''And I'll find out when I go back whether we're going into a second series.'' The Chinese Detective was never shown here (''There was no fighting, that's why Hongkong didn't want it,'' Yip said), but is experiencing a rebirth via cable and satellite in the UK. ''People still come up to me in the street and ask when the next series is coming out,'' he said. ''It was made over 10 years ago! ''We did two series and then the BBC ran short of money. It came down to a choice between us and Bergerac, and let's face it, we weren't very glam. ''It was set in the East End and my character was a bit of a loner who drove a tatty car. It looked grotty actually. I'm not surprised they decided not to renew it!''