Earlier this week, a photo of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman doing the Wakanda salute went viral as fans wondered if he was starting to get tired of doing the gesture, but as Boseman explained, there’s a perfectly good reason for his expression.
Since Black Panther took the world by storm, the Wakanda salute has taken on a life of its own. The salute’s been seen in sports arenas, performed among friends, and the cast is asked to make the salute constantly. By the time Boseman walked the red carpet for Avengers: Infinity War (which he appears in) and had his photo taken, he’d been at the center of the Black Panther cultural phenomenon for three straight months. While Boseman’s photo quickly turned into a meme, others called for fans to stop insisting that the Black Panther cast perform the salute.
Boseman, however, has been good-humored about the whole thing including the viral photo, which he thought was funny. In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert, he compared the Wakanda salute to a military salute that will look different if you do it all the time.
“It’s a salute, you know,” he explained. “If I was in the military and I did this [salute] every day, I’m not gonna do it the same every time. Sometimes it’s more pedestrian. So that person, whoever I was doing it to at that moment, caught a casual one. But three minutes before that I probably did one that was fully—yes!”
While Boseman may change his mind down the line, for now, he (and fans) can always point to the “casual” salute line if another photo goes viral. Besides, even Black Panther needs time to recharge.