America’s Got Talent premieres May 26, and there’s one audition during first episode that you’ll never forget. Archie Williams is performing in hopes of winning season 15, and he has one incredible story. He spent 36 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. However, he didn’t let prison break him. He tells AGT host Terry Crews, “Freedom is of the mind. I went to prison, but I never let my mind go to prison.” So, who is Archie Williams? HollywoodLife has rounded up 5 key things you need to know.
1. Archie was wrongfully convicted and spent 36 years behind bars. He was arrested in 1983 after a woman was raped and stabbed in her home. Even though none of the fingerprints at the scene matched Archie’s, he was sentenced to life in prison plus 80 years with no possibility of parole or probation. He was sent to the Louisiana State Penitentiary, nicknamed Angola, where he spent the next 36 years of his life for a crime he didn’t commit.
2. He was freed after new technology proved his innocence. DNA would eventually free Archie. The Innocence Project took on his case, and new technology got him back in court. Within hours of testing, the prints at the crime scene matched a serial rapist. Archie was released from prison on March 21, 2019.
3. Simon Cowell tells Archie that he will “never forget” his audition. Archie performs a powerful rendition of Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” Heidi Klum was left in tears by his performance. “I will never ever listen to that song in the same way ever again after you sang that,” Simon says to Archie. “It took on a whole different meaning for me, and you’re a very courageous person. By the way, you have a really good voice. You really, really do. This is an audition I will never forget for the whole of my life.”
4. He watched America’s Got Talent in prison. Archie reveals that he would “visualize” himself being on the AGT stage while watching the show. “I know this is my chance of a lifetime,” he says.
5. He formed a band in prison. To get through his days behind bars, Archie says he would pray and sing. He eventually formed a band in prison. “That was the first place I was ever able to sing gospel in,” he told NPR in 2019. “It was like a new birth there.”